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Kyiv has said Moscow’s claims of a Ukrainian attack within Russia’s borders on Thursday are ‘a deliberate provocation’, amid accusations of a false flag plot.

Russian news agencies said Vladimir Putin’s forces were fighting to ‘eliminate’ a Ukrainian sabotage group in the Bryansk region which borders Ukraine after the group allegedly took hostages in a shop.

But a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky quickly responded to the reports, saying that Russia is looking to justify an attack on another country.

‘The story about (a) Ukrainian sabotage group in RF is a classic deliberate provocation,’ Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. ‘RF wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country & the growing poverty after the year of war.’

Ukraine and its western allies have warned about false flag attacks in the past, fearing Moscow could use manufactured provocations to justify further escalations in the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. There was no immediate proof or confirmation of the alleged Ukrainian incursion outside of the Russian reports.

Kyiv has said Moscow's claims of a Ukrainian attack within Russia's borders on Thursday are 'a deliberate provocation', amid accusations of a false flag plot. Pictured: A Ukrainian border guard is seen in November

Kyiv has said Moscow’s claims of a Ukrainian attack within Russia’s borders on Thursday are ‘a deliberate provocation’, amid accusations of a false flag plot. Pictured: A Ukrainian border guard is seen in November

Russian news agencies said Vladimir Putin's forces were fighting to 'eliminate' a Ukrainian sabotage group in the Bryansk region which borders Ukraine after the group allegedly took hostages in a shop in the village of Lubechanye, 200 meters from the Ukrainian border

Russian news agencies said Vladimir Putin’s forces were fighting to ‘eliminate’ a Ukrainian sabotage group in the Bryansk region which borders Ukraine after the group allegedly took hostages in a shop in the village of Lubechanye, 200 meters from the Ukrainian border

Initial reports in Russia claimed that ‘a group of Ukrainian saboteurs infiltrated two villages, taking local residents hostage in one of them.’ 

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TASS – a Russia news agency – quoted an unnamed source in Russia’s security services as saying: ‘Soldiers from Rosgvardia clashed with the militants.’

Quoting local emergency services, Russia’s RIA news agency said several people had been taken hostage in a store in the village of Lubechanye, less than one mile from Russia’s border with Ukraine. 

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov later called the reported events in the region a ‘terrorist attack,’ and said that Putin’s top officials were being sent updates from security agencies and Russia’s defence minister on the situation.

However, he denied initial reports that suggested Putin planned to hold an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Thursday, but said he would hold a meeting of the Council on Friday when it convenes regularly. 

The FSB security service said in a statement to Russian news agencies on Thursday that its own forces and the army were trying to liquidate what it described as ‘an armed group of Ukrainian nationalists’ who had crossed the border.

‘A reconnaissance and sabotage group penetrated from Ukraine to the Klimovsky district in the village of Lyubechane… The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are taking all the necessary measures to eliminate the sabotage group,’ the Bryansk regional governor Alexander Bogomaz said in a statement online. 

Earlier, Bogomaz had said that the supposed Ukrainian ‘sabotage group’ had shot and killed one person after crossing into Russia from Ukraine.

‘Today, a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group penetrated the Klimovsky district in the village of Lubechanye. Saboteurs fired on a moving car,’ he said. ‘As a result of the attack, one resident was killed and a ten-year-old child was wounded,’ Bogomaz wrote on his Telegram channel.

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He said Ukrainian armed forces had also launched a drone attack and fired artillery shells at other areas near the border.

Meanwhile, footage surfaced online purporting to show pro-Ukrainian fighters waving the flag of the Russian Volunteer Corps – a unit of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine formed in August 2022 from Russian right-wing volunteers.

The men, decked out in combat gear and wrapped in several pieces of yellow tape (often used by Ukrainian soldiers to distinguish themselves from the Russian invaders), said they were in Russia and took responsibility for the reported clashes.

There was no immediate confirmation but they were said to be at the Lyuban medical and obstetric centre in the village of Lyubchany. Like the Russian reports, the legitimacy of the videos has been questioned.

Ukrainian colonel Anatoly Shtefan – known as Shtyrlitz – joined Podolyak in accusing the Russians of a provocation.

‘The Russian mass media are once again trying to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine and accuse them of provocations on the territory of the aggressor state,’ posted the Kyiv war blogger.

‘But they do not take into account the fact that soldiers of the Defence Forces of Ukraine have never resorted to provocations, are not resorting to them now – and will not resort to provocations.’ Ukrainian troops are ‘protectors’ – who ‘defend their right to freedom and a free life on their own land,’ he wrote. 

Russia’s border regions have been increasingly volatile since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago in what it called its ‘special military operation’ with reports of shelling and sporadic sabotage. 

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The reported attack comes after several drones, understood to be Ukrainian-operated, made attacks or attempted attacks in western Russian regions.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately take responsibility for the drone attacks, but they similarly have avoided directly acknowledging responsibility for past strikes and sabotage while emphasising Ukraine’s right to hit any target in Russia.

Meanwhile, British military intelligence said on Wednesday that Russia was launching drone attacks against Ukraine from the Bryansk region, which lies to the north of Ukraine and is closer to the capital Kyiv than other launch sites.

Russia's border regions have been increasingly volatile since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago in what it called its 'special military operation' with reports of shelling and sporadic sabotage

Russia’s border regions have been increasingly volatile since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago in what it called its ‘special military operation’ with reports of shelling and sporadic sabotage

Russia has accused Ukrainian saboteurs of infiltrating Bryansk before.

In December, the FSB security service said a four-person Ukrainian ‘sabotage group’ had been ‘liquidated’ while trying to enter Bryansk. 

Putin told the FSB this week that it needed to step up its guard against espionage and what he called terrorist threats emanating from Ukraine and the West.

‘Your task is to put a barrier in the way of sabotage groups, to stop attempts to illegally transport weapons and ammunition into Russia,’ he said in a speech on Tuesday.

This is a breaking news story. More to follow… 

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