Von Leopold Case
There is excitement on the Russian-Ukrainian border: Russia’s President Putin speaks of a “terrorist attack” in the Bryansk region, near the Ukrainian and Belarusian borders, and wants to convene his Security Council on Friday. The Russian secret service FSB reports that two civilians were killed and one child injured. The state news agencies Tass and Ria Novosti report that Ukrainian saboteurs attacked a border village, but Kiev denies any responsibility. And then a confession video is circulating that directs suspicion towards Russian nationalists. The situation in Bryansk Oblast is confusing and those involved seem nervous. An overview of what is known.
What happened in the Bryansk region?
That is still not clear. According to Russian news agencies, the Russian secret service FSB assumes that two civilians were killed and a child is said to have been injured. This is also reported by the local authorities.
Actions are also said to have taken place in the village of Suschany, about 20 kilometers to the south. However, reports of hostage-taking have been denied by local authorities. On Thursday evening, four soldiers of the Russian National Guard were said to have been injured in Suschany because their vehicle had hit a land mine. This is reported by the Tass news agency and independent Russian media. It is still unclear whether and how the mine explosion is related to the attack.
Accordingly, “Ukrainian saboteurs” are said to have opened fire and shot at a car, among other things. In the meantime, an attack on a school bus was also reported, but local authorities in Bryansk dismissed this as a false report. Previously, Ukrainian drone and artillery strikes had also been reported, which cannot be confirmed.
Russian news agencies reported that Russian troops fought the sabotage group. In the afternoon, the secret service reported that the situation was under control and they were now in the process of securing and defusing the explosives found.
Who is responsible for that?
Simultaneously with the first reports, photos and videos appeared on social media and Russian propaganda channels. They depict men in military garb, holding a flag and speaking Russian.
An armed group of a couple dozen of Russian neo-Nazis headed by Denys Kapustin has attacked two Russian villages near the Russo-Ukrainian border in Bryansk.
The RDK movement thinks Putin is a traitor as he isn’t for a Russian ethno-state.pic.twitter.com/e89POIWD1J
— Visegrad 24 (@visegrad24) March 2, 2023” data-teaserlist-element>
The SZ editors have enriched this article with content from Twitter
To protect your privacy, it has not been loaded without your permission.
I consent to content from Twitter being displayed to me. Personal data is thus transmitted to the operator of the portal for usage analysis. You can find more information and a possibility of revocation under sz.de/datenschutz.
The recordings are apparently confession videos. The flag the men are holding appears to be the banner of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), a military unit of Russian émigrés living in Ukraine. The RDK was formed during the war in August last year and is made up of former Russian volunteer fighters from Ukraine’s Azov regiment, which defended Mariupol against Russian invaders until May 2022.
The RDK is an association of right-wing radical fighters who reject Putin’s regime and the war against Ukraine and who voluntarily fight on the side of Kiev. In the video, the men claim responsibility for the attacks in Bryansk and call on the Russian population to rebel. The video does not reveal exactly what goals the RDK is pursuing. It is also not clear whether the recordings or the confession are authentic.
However, the video shows a man associated with the RDK: Denis Kapustin, a Russian right-wing extremist who also goes by the name Denis Nikitin and is known from the neo-Nazi and hooligan scene. Kapustin is also well connected in Germany, where he lived for a while. Kapustin stated last August that he was fighting for the RDK on the side of Ukraine against Russia.
How is Moscow reacting?
On the one hand, the Kremlin is trying to take a firm stance on the matter. Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke early on of “Ukrainian terrorists” responsible for the attacks. After the events, Putin canceled a trip to the Caucasus planned for Thursday and finally spoke out himself. In a video link he spoke of a terrorist attack. The Kremlin also announced that it would convene the Security Council this Friday.
On the other hand, a certain caution and uncertainty can also be felt from Moscow – despite all the clear formulations. Putin spoke of “them” attacking Russia again, without specifying who he was talking about. And his spokesman Peskow also let it shine through that he doesn’t want to make any precise statements either. “All the details will of course be checked, investigated. It is necessary to establish with certainty who it is. Our security authorities will take care of all this. The information will come from them,” he said.
When asked whether an incursion by Ukrainian saboteurs into Russian territory would change the official Kremlin line that the war against Ukraine must be called a “special operation”, Peskov referred to the Security Council meeting and said: “I don’t know , I can not say it yet.”
How is Kyiv reacting?
There was also an immediate reaction from Kiev: the government denied any responsibility. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak said Russia wanted to use it to justify its attack on Ukraine. He hinted that Russian partisans could be behind the attacks.
Andriy Chernyak, a representative of the Ukrainian military intelligence service, also denied Ukraine’s involvement and referred to the RDK’s confession video.
What does that mean for the course of the war?
That is currently still completely open. For several weeks there have been repeated rumors about possible “provocations” by the Ukrainian armed forces on Russian or Belarusian territory. For months, Western secret services and analysts from the Institute for the Study of War have been expecting armed clashes in the border area that are fabricated by Russia.
Such false flagaction could give Russia the justification to escalate the war against Ukraine – or, in the event of an incident on the border with Belarus, persuade Russia’s neighboring country to enter the war. Ruler Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly emphasized that he would only send troops to Ukraine if his country was actually attacked. Bryansk Oblast borders Belarus.
However, should it prove true that the RDK is behind the attacks, this thesis would probably be invalid. Russian partisans fighting for Ukraine and encroaching on Russian territory are probably not good reasons for Belarus to enter the war.
Whether the events near Bryansk could actually mean an intensification of the war depends above all on what is decided at the Security Council meeting this Friday.