Story by Isabel van Brugen
9 Jun 2023
Russian soldiers fighting against Russian anti-Vladimir Putin militia that crossed into the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine last week have complained that "entire regiments" are being wiped out.
The "Pskov Province" Telegram channel said on Tuesday it received a message from a Russian unit fighting near the the border town of Shebekino in Belgorod. "I would like to see the story of our regiment being slaughtered on the Shebekino and Graivoron directions and somehow put the matter to rest," the message said.
Two Russian rebel groups—the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC)—entered Belgorod last week, and intense fighting has been ongoing since. The Legion is made up of defectors from the Russian armed forces and Russian and Belarusian volunteers, and the RVC says its members include Russians fighting on Ukraine's side and against the Kremlin regime.
On Sunday, the RVC said it was behind an attack in the Belgorod region that resulted in the capture of several Russian soldiers.
"We are under constant shelling, officers, ordinary soldiers and above all the people who have families and all their relatives at home are being killed," the Russian regiment said in its message.
The Russian soldiers said poor leadership and a lack of reinforcements and equipment are to blame for high casualty numbers.
"We are ready to defend our homeland, but with proper supplies," the unit said. "And to be taken prisoner without arms or with no possibility to counteract is not defending the homeland. On behalf of the 1009th regiment we ask you to look into this serious problem and make decisions as soon as possible."
The soldiers said that they were mobilized eight months ago, and were later taken to Ukraine's so-called Luhansk People's Republic for training, which took place "with varying degrees of effectiveness." The men were then deployed to the Belgorod region, according to the Telegram channel.
An unverified video has also circulated on Russian and Ukrainian social media channels, purportedly showing a Russian soldier from the 138th Brigade posted in the Belgorod region.
In the video, the solider said his unit lost 80 percent of its personnel and that he and his fellow soldiers were "forced to retreat without permission and without reinforcements."
"After some time, the same situation occurred with two other groups [units]. They mowed down entire regiments of our men," the soldier said.
Ilya Ponomarev, an exiled Russian politician who says he is the political representative for the Freedom of Russia Legion, told Newsweek last week that the group aims "to liberate Russia from Putinism."
Alexei Baranovsky, a representative of the political wing of the Freedom of Russia Legion, said "the minimum plan is to create a demilitarized zone on the borders with Ukraine, so that Putinists cannot fire ground equipment at the territory of Ukraine from here."
"But the main plan, of course, is a swift march on Moscow," he told Newsweek.
The British Ministry of Defence assessed on June 2 that Russian commanders now face an "acute dilemma" of whether to strengthen defenses in Russia's border regions or reinforce their lines in occupied Ukraine.
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