Anti-Putin group claims it has ‘liberated’ town inside Russia’s Belgorod region

A Russian revolutionary group opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have liberated a town in Russia near the border with Ukraine.

The rebel faction, the Freedom of Russia Legion, said it had liberated the town of Kozinka in the Belgorod region and its forces were now entering the town of Grayvoron along with another resistance group called the Russian Volunteer Corps.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said in a Telegram post that a Ukrainian “sabotage” group had entered the town of Grayvoron.

Gladkov said Russian forces, along with the National Guard and the Federal Security Service, were all working to “eliminate the enemy.”

Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security said the fighters in Belgorod are Russian resistance groups but welcomed their “resolute actions of the opposition against the criminal and aggressive Putin regime.”

“After the victory of Ukraine, the ‘security zone’ will be one of the key issues during the negotiations on the future coexistence with Russia,” a tweet from the center’s account reads. “Ukraine will demand the creation of a demilitarized security zone in the Russian regions bordering our state.”

The Freedom of Russia Legion also posted a statement Monday saying they were Russians who “no longer wanted to justify the actions of criminals in power” and are now taking “up arms to defend our and your freedom.”

In a video going viral online, the group lambasted the Kremlin and Putin’s regime, accusing Russian leaders of widespread corruption.

“We want our children to grow up in peace and be free people,” an unidentified resistance soldier says in the video, according to a Ukrainian official’s translation. “But that has no place in today’s Putin’s Russia, rotten to the core with lies, censorship, restrictions on freedom.”

The group also warned Belgorod residents to “stay at home” as they move through the region.

“Do not resist and do not be afraid: we are not your enemies,” the group wrote on Telegram. “Unlike Putin’s zombies, we do not touch civilians and do not use them for our own purposes. Freedom is near!”

The Freedom of Russia Legion was formed last year, consisting of defecting Russians who took up arms against their home country to help defend Ukraine.

The group is part of an international coalition of fighters assisting Ukraine as freelancers, including Americans, Belarusians and Georgians.

The Russian Volunteer Corps is a far-right militia formed in August of last year to combat Putin and is based in Ukraine.

Earlier Monday, Russia claimed the capture of the eastern city of Bakhmut, after about six months of brutal fighting.

Ukraine has aggressively denied claims of a Russian victory in Bakhmut, though they acknowledge controlling only a small part of the city.

Russian military blogger Rybar claimed the armed militants in Belgorod were “shifting the focus of attention from the loss of Bakhmut to the capture of one and a half villages on the outskirts of the Belgorod region.”

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