The Russian army is torn between the defense of its border, which has proved very vulnerable to enemy incursions, and the advance in Donbas, where Chechen units have replaced the mercenaries of the Wagner group.
The Belgorod region, the weakest link on the border, sharing 540 kilometers with the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Kharkiv and Sumy, has been the target of uninterrupted attacks for two weeks, apparently without the Kremlin being able to do anything to prevent it.
Meanwhile, Kiev says that everything is ready to launch the counteroffensive, whose first step would be precisely to force Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine in order to protect its territory.
Belgorod is no longer the rearguard, but the front line. Its governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, informs Russians and the rest of the world from his Telegram channel about daily bombings, which left seven civilians dead on Friday and Saturday.
The aftermath of the Ukrainian bombing of the border town of Shebekino, Belgorod region, Russia. Photo EFE
"Heed the authorities and temporarily leave your homes to preserve the most important thing, which is your life and that of your loved ones," he wrote on Sunday.
The official explained that his appeal does not concern only the district of Shebekino, the most affected by the attacks of recent days, but all the districts that are being bombed.
Gladkov, who estimated that more than four thousand civilians have already been evacuated, announced on Saturday the urgent evacuation of 600 children from border towns, while another thousand will be sent to the annexed Crimean peninsula.
The governor and other hawks in Russia have called on authorities to take the threat seriously once and for all and create a security strip about 40 kilometers wide in neighboring Kharkiv.
In the middle of the afternoon, the Governor admitted a new incursion by an enemy saboteur group, which would have led to fighting in the town of Novaya Tavolzhanka.
"I hope they will be annihilated. It cannot be otherwise. These fascists are killing civilians in Belgorod every day (...), maiming children and the elderly," he said in a video.
Ukrainian shelling in the border town of Shebekino, Belgorod region. Photo EFE
The Russian Ministry of Defense then recognized the enemy's attempt to penetrate Belgorod again through a river, but was prevented by artillery.
"The enemy dispersed and withdrew," the military statement said.
The two previous raids, carried out by the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom Legion for Russia, were repelled.
"We continue to crush the enemy. Russia will be free!" wrote one of the members of the legion, which aspires to create a military administration in Belgorod.
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After the capture of Bakhmut, Russian troops are now focused on the outskirts of Donetsk, capital of the homonymous region, the most militarized zone of the entire front since 2014.
The targets are Avdíivka and Marinka, where the Chechen special unit "Akhmat" would be exercising the role of assault troops that in Bakhmut fulfilled the Wagnerites.
According to Defense, the Chechens are actively engaged in bloody fighting in the center of Marinka, from where they would advance towards Vugledar, a stronghold that has resisted them since the beginning of the war.
The final objective, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, seems very distant at the moment, although the military report on Sunday reported the destruction of an arsenal of ammunition in the first of the towns of Donetsk.
Russia also said it had destroyed a drone factory in the central city of Dnipro with precision weaponry.
Instead, Kiev denounced the death of a two-year-old girl in that city due to the impact of a missile on a residential neighborhood.
After assuring The Wall Street Journa yesterday that the Ukrainians are "ready" to launch their counteroffensive and that they will not wait "several months" for the arrival of heavy weapons and Western aircraft, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was much more cautious.
"This is not like cinema (...) The vacancy of our territory, that is the result of the counteroffensive. When it happens, you will understand that it is already underway," he told a news conference.
For its part, the Ministry of Defense published a video with a group of soldiers with their fingers on their lips and the title: "Plans like silence. We will not announce its start."
"The enemy is waiting dumbfounded for the next actions of the Ukrainian army," Sergui Cherebaty, spokesman for the army's Eastern Command, told local television.