by Kateryna Mishchenko

The Russian Volunteer Corps (RDC), the Freedom of Russia Legion, and the Siberian Battalion (all formed from Russian citizens fighting on the side of Ukraine) issued a joint statement on Wednesday, March 13, announcing the opening of fire on Russian military positions in Belgorod and Kursk. “To avoid civilian casualties, we urge everyone to leave the city immediately. We call on local authorities to preserve human lives and begin evacuation,” the statement said. The day before, the Freedom of Russia Legion announced another raid into Russian territory and the holding of new positions. The specific territories are not specified in the message.

On March 12, Russian volunteers also claimed to have breached the Russian border in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, publishing several videos of battles with Russian military personnel. Allegedly, these incidents occurred in bordering Russian districts. In particular, the Freedom of Russia Legion claimed full control over the border town of Tetkino in the Kursk region.

The Russian Ministry of Defense, the Army General Sergey Shoygu, stated that this was untrue and added that more than two hundred Ukrainian saboteurs were allegedly killed and their equipment destroyed during an attempt to breach into border areas. Vladimir Putin stated that foreign mercenaries attempted to attack border areas of Russia.

Representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Andriy Yusov, stated that the Freedom of Russia Legion, the RDC, and the Siberian Battalion operate as independent units on Russian territory. “Yes, absolutely, these are citizens of the Russian Federation who, unfortunately, are deprived of the opportunity for parliamentary methods of political struggle. And [in Russia] it is impossible and prohibited,” he said.

The volunteers announced that, thanks to their actions, at least in part of the Kursk and Belgorod regions of the Russian Federation, Putin’s elections will not take place. A volunteer of the Freedom of Russia Legion, Oleksei Baranovsky, talked about the current goals that the fighters have set on Russian territory. “Well, the battles, you know, sometimes quiet down, then flare up again. We are working to expand our advance into the territory because the Russian army clearly did not expect a breakthrough in this section of the border,” the fighter noted.

He also mentioned that there is indeed a whole range of goals and tasks that the legion is addressing. From a military perspective, volunteers are diverting attention and resources from the Russian armed forces. “There are also political tasks: first of all, we are sending a signal to those anti-Putin oppositionists, anti-war activists who are still in Russia. We came to take part in the elections. The elections are on March 15-17, so the most active days of voting are still ahead. We have prepared tools for the most effective participation in voting. Therefore, I think that at least in part of the Kursk and Belgorod regions, the elections will not take place,” Baranovsky announced.

A similar raid was conducted by RDC fighters a year ago, in March 2023. At that time, the governor of the Bryansk region, Alexander Bogomaz, stated that a “sabotage group” from Ukraine had infiltrated the territory of the Klimovsky district, into the village of Lyubechane. It was reported that two civilians were killed. Vladimir Putin later referred to the events in the Bryansk region as a “terrorist act.” In early June 2023, the RDC and Freedom of Russia conducted shelling in Shebekino of the Belgorod region and captured the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka, as acknowledged by the governor of the region, Vyacheslav Gladkov.

On the cover photo, Triumphal arch in memorial complex, aerial view, Kursk (Russia) ©Vladimir Mulder/