The Russian Volunteer Corps, a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals aligned with the Ukrainian army, has denied shelling civilians as it claimed its “second phase” inside Russia had begun on Thursday.
In a video message, a fighter from the Russian Volunteer Corps said they were “once again fighting on Russian territory.”
“Very soon the outskirts of Shebekino will appear," the group said, referring to a village in Russia's border region of Belgorod.
The message comes amid an uptick in cross-border mortar and artillery in Shebekino and other border districts in recent days. Belgorod's governor said five people were injured by shelling early Thursday.
A day earlier, the governor said children will be evacuated from Shebekino and the nearby town of Grayvoron.
The Russian Volunteer Corps on Telegram accused “Putin's army” of hitting “Russian villages and hamlets.”
"Unfortunately, we cannot ensure the evacuation of civilians from the border areas, because the Army of the Russian Federation is shelling these areas and thus making evacuation difficult,” the Russian Volunteer Corps said. “Stay in your homes, don't worry. Soldiers of the Russian Volunteer Corps are not at war with civilians."
Anti-Putin Russians: The Russian Volunteer Corps and another anti-Putin Russian group, the Freedom for Russia Legion, last week claimed responsibility for an attack in Belgorod.
The legion also posted a video message Thursday claiming they were “near the border of our homeland.”
"Very soon we will advance again into Russian territory to bring freedom, peace, and calm," they said, adding: "We are going to liberate the whole of Russia — from Belgorod to Vladivostok."