Russian security officials claimed Thursday that a small Ukrainian armed group had crossed the Russian border into the southern Bryansk region, claims dismissed by a top Ukrainian official as a "classic deliberate provocation."
The Security Service of Russia (FSB) said in a statement via state media RIA Novosti Thursday that the agency — which also oversees border control — was carrying out joint operations with the Russian Ministry of Defense to counter what it described as "armed Ukrainian nationalists who violated the state border” in the district.
Details thus far have remained vague, but Russian state news agency TASS cited an anonymous source in the Russian security services that up to six people were being held hostage in two villages in the Bryansk region of Russia on the border with Ukraine by the alleged saboteurs. The spokesperson for the governor of the Bryansk region claimed in remarks to the state-owned military channel Zvezda that a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group is operating on the territory of the village of Sushany, without providing additional information.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin canceled a planned trip to southern Russia Thursday due to the events and was being regularly briefed on what he described as a “terrorist attack.”
What Ukraine is saying: An adviser in the Ukrainian President’s Office, Mykhailo Podolyak, says Russia's allegation is either a provocation, or the work of local partisans taking a stand against the Kremlin, denying any Ukrainian involvement.
“Ukraine is not attacking,” Podolyak said, adding that this type of operation was consistent with previous Russian provocations. “This is classic Russia. It always goes for provocation, lies, it always creates information pretexts."
“Ukraine does not attack Russian territory, does not send special reconnaissance groups there, does not kill people, especially civilians. Ukraine does not need this. This is not a strategic object and there is no point in going there," he added.
CNN cannot independently verify the Russian claims, and local media have not carried any images of the supposed fighting. US and Ukrainian officials have in the past warned that Russia has planned so-called "false flag" attacks along Russia's border with Ukraine as a pretext for military escalation, including Russian claims ahead of last year's full-scale invasion that Ukraine was sending "saboteurs" over the Russian border.
"The story about [a Ukrainian] sabotage group in RF [the Russian Federation] is a classic deliberate provocation," said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine, in a statement on Twitter. "RF wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country & the growing poverty after the year of war. The partisan movement in RF is getting stronger & more aggressive. Fear your partisans..."
Separately, the governor of Russia's southern Kursk region published a video statement on his Telegram channel claiming that a village was being shelled by Ukrainian forces.