On the morning of June 1, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDC) and the Freedom of Russia legion, who are fighting on Ukraine's side, announced a new incursion into Russian territory. Their target this time was the city of Shebekino in Belgord region bordering Ukraine, which had been experiencing daily shelling for over a week. The local authorities did not issue an official evacuation order, but urged residents to leave their homes “if needed.” News outlet Holod gathered all available information about the Ukrainian units’ breakthrough into Russian territory. Global Voices translated and republished the article, with edits for clarity, with permission from Holod.
The responsibility for the attack on the Belgorod region was claimed by the RDC and the Freedom of Russia legion, composed of Russian volunteers. On June 1, they announced on their Telegram channel the initiation of a new incursion into Russian territory, and provided ongoing updates throughout the day regarding the operation's progress.
In one of their posts, they claimed to have targeted the local police station with Grad rockets, alleging that all personnel had gathered there. Additionally, the RDC released a video supposedly depicting a firefight near Shebekino. The exact location of the shooting could not be determined from the footage.
The Freedom of Russia legion reported the destruction of two Russian military vehicles: a KamAZ truck loaded with ammunition and a self-propelled mortar called Tulip. They shared a video on their Telegram channel allegedly showing the destruction of the Russian equipment in the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka. The landmarks visible in the video corresponded to satellite images of the area on Google Maps.
Artillery preparations before the incursion
The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, described the night of June 1 as tense. He wrote in his Telegram channel that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had shelled the center and outskirts of Shebekino with Grad rockets around midnight, as well as at 03:40 and 05:15 in the morning. At around 8:00 a.m. he announced that five people had been injured and residential buildings, administrative structures, and private houses had sustained damage as a result of the strikes.
Later, the governor reported a fire in a hostel building that had been hit, as well as damage to the adjacent city administration building. Due to the shelling, the city was experiencing a power outage. At least 11 people were injured, with one individual having lost an arm.
According to Gladkov, the shelling of the city and neighboring districts continued unabated into Thursday afternoon. On his Telegram channel, he urged residents to leave their homes if necessary and mentioned the operation of temporary accommodation centers (TAPs) in the region.
Running from Shebekino
Videos purportedly recorded by Shebekino residents circulated online, showing the shelling of the city. Some of those who managed to reach TAPs recounted their experiences of having to flee while under fire.
“Our city, Shebekino, is in flames. The fighting is ongoing. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are attacking our city, and there are very few of us left. There has been practically no response from our side to the firing in previous days. There were no soldiers. We are on our own. It got to the point that people fled tonight,” said a girl in a video published by the Astra Telegram channel.
“We were under fire. From 3 o'clock in the morning until 7, we couldn't leave, couldn't lift our heads. It's terrifying,” said another Shebekino resident in an interview with the state television channel Rossiya.
“The factory was bombed and is not working. Shebekino has been under shelling on Saturday and Sunday, and continuously these past two nights. It's terrible. The city center is covered in dust,” reported Tatyana, a local resident, to the regional publication Bel.ru.
No official evacuation order was announced for any town in the Belgorod region. But Governor Gladkov said they would transport several hundred children from the border areas to a neighboring region. It was later confirmed that 300 children from the Shebekinsky district had arrived in the Voronezh region and were accommodated in the children's summer camp.
Gladkov further wrote on his Telegram channel that 200 people, including mothers or grandmothers with small children, would be departing for the Penza region the following day, and on Saturday, 300 residents of the town Grayvoron (a town that was reportedly attacked previously) would be leaving for the Yaroslavl region, along with 300 Shebekino residents heading to the Kaluga region. The rest of the residents from the border areas who chose to evacuate were awaiting placement in TAPs. Six such centers with a combined capacity of three thousand people were established in Belgorod. The largest one, located at the Belgorod Arena, could house 1250 individuals. The TAPs provided food, as well as medical and psychological assistance.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that they had successfully prevented the border incursion. Allegedly, the Russian military repelled three attacks by Ukrainian units, referring to the events as “a new attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist act” against the citizens of Shebekino.
The Defense Ministry's statement read, “At around 3 o'clock in the morning, Ukrainian formations, comprising up to two motorized infantry companies supported by tanks, attempted to invade. The selfless actions of the Russian military repelled three attacks by Ukrainian terrorist groups. The formations of the Kyiv regime were pushed back, having suffered significant losses. Border violations were prevented, and over 30 Ukrainian terrorists were killed.”
In light of the reports of a new border breach into Russian territory, Vladimir Putin awarded Vladimir Zhdanov, the head of the administration of the Shebekinsky urban district, with the Order of Courage for his “bravery and selflessness in performing his civic duty.” Putin himself did not comment on the situation in Shebekino but participated in a video conference celebrating Children's Day and answered questions, including one regarding who is more important: himself or Santa Claus. His spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, stated that the president continuously receives reports about the Belgorod region from the Ministry of Defense, the FSB Border Service, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
This marks the third attack by the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia legion on Russian territory. In early March, news emerged of “saboteurs” crossing the border in the Bryansk region, but their incursion lasted only a few hours. On May 22, they breached the border in the Belgorod region, resulting in two days of fighting in the Grayvoron district. Local authorities declared a counter-terrorist operation for a day during that period.
In response, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that they had successfully defeated the Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group. The military stated that over 70 individuals were killed, and nine vehicles were destroyed during the incursion.
A representative of the Russian Volunteer Corps mentioned in an interview with Holod that one of the objectives of such incursions is to divert a portion of the Russian military away from the frontlines in Ukraine towards the border areas and thus bring the war onto Russian territory.