Russia said two people were killed in an attack by Ukrainian “saboteurs” in the Bryansk region on Thursday, an incident President Vladimir Putin called a “terrorist attack,” but that Ukraine has said it played no part in.
Bryansk Governor Alexander Bogomaz issued an updated death toll on his Telegram channel, saying that in the village of Lyubechane in the Klimovsky district, “the number of dead civilians increased to two people. A man born in 1966 died.”
Without providing evidence, Russian authorities said a group of Ukrainian saboteurs had crossed into Bryansk from the Ukrainian region of Chernihiv and taken up to six hostages. Ukraine has accused Russia of staging a false “provocation.”
Reports that a school bus was attacked were quickly shut down by a Russian official.
“There was no school bus,” the head of the Ministry of Education, Sergei Kravtsov, told reporters. “It is clear that they are trying to spread panic. Schools in the border areas are working remotely, so there was no bus.”
Later, armed men purportedly from the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), which was founded in August 2022, published an online statement saying they had crossed the Russia-Ukraine border to fight what they called “the bloody Putinite and Kremlin regime.”
They said they did not shoot at civilians or take hostages and that such reports were “a lie of the Kremlin propagandists.”
“The Russian Volunteer Corps came to the Bryansk region to show their compatriots that there is hope, that free Russian people with weapons in their hands can fight the regime,” a Telegram post from the RDK read.
Russian investigative news site iStories reported it had spoken to one of the RDK fighters. The anonymous interviewee told the website a group of 45 fighters “went in, filmed, ambushed two BMPs [Russian-made fighting vehicles].”
“I didn’t see any children,” the fighter said. “But there was one injured border guard.”
An RBK fighter said in a video statement: “Friends, this has happened . . . We have crossed the state border. We are not fighting the civilians, we do not kill unarmed people. It is time for the Russian citizens to understand that they are not slaves. Fight!”
The group said that it “came to Bryansk region to show their compatriots that there is hope that free Russian people with weapons in their hands can fight the regime.”
Several independent Russian outlets identified one of the men as Denis Kapustin aka Nikitin, a 38-year-old far-right Russian soccer hooligan who founded the RBK and the white nationalist clothing label White Rex. He was born in Moscow and lived in Germany before moving to Ukraine in 2017.
The RBK has claimed to be a “Russian volunteer formation that is part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” although this hasn’t been confirmed by Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has said Thursday’s incident was “a classic provocation” from Russia.
Russia “wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country & the growing poverty after the year of war,” he tweeted. The partisan movement in Russia is “getting stronger & more aggressive. Fear your partisans.”
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