ISW: Kremlin not sure how to react to raids in Belgorod region

    WORLD  05 June 2023 - 12:30

    The operation by units of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and the Russian Legion of Freedom (LRS) in Russia's Belgorod region shows the Kremlin's lack of understanding of how to respond to the situation. This causes chaos in the country's information space, growing unrest, and criticism of Moscow.

    Such conclusions are voiced by analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, Caliber.Az reports, citing a new ISW report.

    The dissonant Russian responses to and reporting about the limited raid in Belgorod Oblast continue to suggest that the Russian leadership has not yet decided how to react to these limited cross-border raids.

    The contradictory reporting from official Russian sources about the situation in Belgorod Oblast and Gladkov’s apparent personal decision to respond to the RDK and LSR suggests that the MoD and Gladkov are not coordinating their responses to the raids.

    ISW has previously reported that Russian officials have disproportionately responded to the limited raids into Russian territory in an effort to assuage growing Russian anxiety about the war in Ukraine while also supporting ongoing information operations that aim to present the war as existential to Russia.

    "Russian responses have primarily centered on informational effects, and there is no indication that the Russian leadership has set a wider policy for preventing further limited raids into Russian border oblasts," the analysts say.

    ISW analysts also add that it is unclear whether Russian authorities will organise an evacuation response to this activity.

    For example, an RDK fighter stated on June 4 that Belgorod Oblast authorities had not organised the announced evacuation activities in the Shebekino area and that Russian citizens largely fled of their own accord, leaving many settlements in a semi-abandoned state.

    At the same time, Gladkov claimed that 4,000 residents of the area were currently in temporary accommodation facilities due to evacuations.

    Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser, said on June 4 that the actions of the RDK and LSR prompted the Russian leadership to divert significant forces to end the border incursions, although ISW analysts have not received confirmation that Russian forces have done so.

    Limited raids and border shelling in the Belgorod region are increasingly becoming the subject of criticism of the Russian military leadership, the publication points out.

    Thus, founder of the Wagner PMC Evgeny Prigozhin continued to use the situation in the Belgorod region to criticize the Russian Defense Ministry on June 3 and 4, specifically pointing to the lack of response from the head of the department, Sergei Shoigu, Colonel General Alexander Lapin and the Chief of General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov.

    Prigozhin offered to negotiate the release of POWs held by the RDK and LSR if the Russian authorities would not do so, and in response to criticism of his proposal sarcastically stated that the Russian Federation has a problem with people who have "balls".

    Other ultranationalist milbloggers responded to the latest raid by criticizing Gladkov for being willing to negotiate with the RDK and LSR, and Russian authorities for failing to consistently inform the public about the situation in Belgorod Oblast.

    A prominent milblogger used the raid in Belgorod Oblast to criticize the MoD for not funding Belgorod territorial defense volunteer formations and for not considering the volunteers as actual combatants.

    Former Russian officer and ardent ultranationalist Igor Girkin argued that the Kremlin cannot do anything about the situation in Belgorod Oblast without engaging in a costly diversion of resources that would likely end in an attritional operation reminiscent of Bakhmut.

     

    Caliber.Az

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