Russian soldiers “panicked and hid in landings and under fences” when rebel troops crossed over the Ukrainian border earlier this week, footage has shown. In a two-minute video posted to Telegram by the Freedom of Russia legion on Friday, dozens of Putin’s soldiers, stationed on home territory in Belgorod Oblast, which borders north-eastern Ukraine, could be seen frantically fleeing the advancing rebel forces as explosions struck several villages.
The rebel groups, with the “cooperation” of the Ukrainian authorities, though not their instruction, crossed the border to “liberate” Russia.
The Freedom of Russia Legion said their video demonstrated the “cowardice and unprofessionalism of Putin’s troops”.
They wrote: “The first video summary of our operation in the Belgorod region. Footage demonstrating the cowardice and unprofessionalism of Putin’s troops.
“Having a numerical superiority, operating on the territory familiar to them, the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation panicked and hid in landings and under fences.
“The video shows footage of a motorised rifle company sheltering in abandoned residential buildings of local residents.”
They added: “They wanted to play hide and seek, but our artillerymen played better.
“There is also destroyed and damaged equipment that will no longer travel on Russian roads to destroy Ukrainian cities.”
The video also showed the shelling of the building where the Russian military were hiding, as well as the strikes delivered on their equipment.
The attacks took place on May 22, alongside the Russian Volunteer Corps, both pro-Ukrianian forces, and involved attempts to “liberate” the villages of Kozinka and Gora-Podol by the border.
The military formations also stated they were seeking the “liberation” of all of Russia.
The day after the attack, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that all participants in the attack were killed.
That was quickly dismissed by both militias as misinformation as they posted videos depicting their fighters safely back at their bases in the following days.
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has suggested that fighters of the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion probably retreated closer to the border with Ukraine after the clash.
The Russian Volunteer Corps also claimed that the Russian MoD was spreading false information about the alleged destruction of a convoy of their equipment in Bryansk Oblast, Russia.
Andrii Cherniak, representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, told the Financial Times, the day after the attack, that they had been in “communication” with the two militias.
“Of course, we communicate with them. Of course, we share some information… And, one might say, we even co-operate,” he said.
But he added that Ukraine’s military was not directly involved in the attack, suggesting that it was the Russians’ own initiative. He also denied that Ukraine supplied the resistance forces with any equipment.
Denis Nikitin, leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, later claimed that his fighters had been using US-made military vehicles during the attack.
These included at least two M1224 MaxxPro armoured vehicles and several Humvees, he said. He declined to divulge how they had been obtained.
A US official said they were “sceptical” about the veracity of those claims. They have repeatedly discouraged Ukrainian forces from staging attacks on Russian soil.