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Pro-Ukrainian Russian forces claim cross-border attacks in Russia

Pro-Ukrainian groups of Russian fighters claimed to have launched cross-border attacks in two regions of Russia on Tuesday, hours after Kyiv fired a wave of drones at targets across the country.

The Freedom for Russia Legion – a group of Russian dissidents fighting for Ukraine which has previously claimed responsibility for incursions into Russia – said it had gained full control of the village of Tyotkino in Russia’s Kursk region. CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

The group, comprising a few hundred battle-hardened, anti-Kremlin Russian volunteers fighting as part of Ukraine’s armed forces, also said it had destroyed an armored personnel carrier inside Russia.

A separate pro-Ukrainian group of Russian fighters, the Siberian Battalion, wrote Tuesday on Telegram: “Well, we’re home at last. As promised, we are bringing freedom and justice to our Russian land.”

A third group, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), also claimed to be involved in the fight.

CNN has asked the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense for comment.

The Russian defense ministry said “Ukrainian terrorist formations” with tanks and armored vehicles tried to cross the border from three directions early Tuesday, but claimed the attacks had been “thwarted.”

The ministry said the attacks were launched in the village of Odnorobovka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, and in the nearby Russian villages of Nekhoteevka and Spodariushino in Belgorod.

“The enemy was struck by aviation, missile forces and artillery,” the ministry said. It claimed to have “eliminated” five tanks an armored personnel carrier in Nekhoteevka and Spodariushino.

The ministry also said its forces had killed 60 Ukrainian soldiers near Odnorobovka as they attempted to cross into Russia.

It said four additional attacks had been launched near the border territory of Russia’s Kursk region, north of Belgorod, but that Ukraine had “suffered significant losses” and was driven back. The ministry did not outline the number of casualties in Kursk and CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said 10 civilians had been injured and six were hospitalized after Ukraine attempted to break through Russian territory Tuesday. He added that Ukrainian fighters were not presently in the Belgorod settlements.

Russia’s Belgorod region has suffered several cross-border attacks since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago, as Kyiv has sought to bring the effects of war home to Russia.

In May 2023, the Freedom for Russia Legion claimed responsibility for an incursion into Belgorod. In the following months, Ukraine began to target the region with shelling and drone strikes, prompting the Kremlin to pledge to improve Belgorod’s air defenses.

Drone strikes

Earlier, Russia’s defense ministry said its air defenses had intercepted and destroyed two drones over Moscow, seven over Belgorod, 11 over Kursk, two over Oryol and one each over Leningrad, Bryansk and Tula regions.

One of the drones struck an oil depot in Oryol region, causing a fire that the governor there said had been extinguished. No casualties were reported.

Belgorod’s governor accused Ukraine of using a drone to drop four explosives over the region. He said there were no casualties but there was damage to the power line, leaving seven settlements without electricity.

School children in Kursk will also move to online learning due to “safety concerns,” the governor of that region announced Tuesday. The decision will affect more than 4,500 students across 34 schools in the Sudzhansky and Glushkovsky districts. Similar measures will be in place in various districts of Belgorod.

Later Tuesday, Russia reportedly fired back at the southern Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, President Volodmyr Zelensky’s hometown. At least three people, two women and one man, were killed and 40 injured - including 10 children - by missile strikes that left several multi-story buildings ablaze.

The head of the Defense Council of Kryvyi Rih Oleksandr Vilkul said nine people had been rescued from the rubble so far.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his condolences to the families and friends of the victims in a Telegram post on Tuesday, saying the rescue operation would continue “as long as needed.”

Russian military plane crashes

In what appeared to be a separate incident on Tuesday, a Russian military plane crashed hundreds of kilometers northeast of Moscow after its engine caught fire, Russian state media RIA Novosti reported, citing the defense ministry.

Eight crew members and seven passers were on board the Ilyushin IL-76 when it crashed in the Ivanovo region while taking off, according to RIA.

Tuesday’s incident was the second IL-76 crash inside Russia this year. Russia blamed Ukraine for the January downing of an IL-76 over Belgorod, saying all 74 people on board were killed, including dozens of Ukrainian servicemen being transported for a prisoner swap.

Ukraine did not confirm it had fired at the plane, and a Ukrainian military official later told CNN that Kyiv had intelligence suggesting only five bodies were delivered to a nearby morgue, casting doubt on Moscow’s claim that 65 Ukrainian servicemen had died in the explosion.

CNN’s Eve Brennan and Maria Kostenko contributed reporting.

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