UKRAINE WAR: Ever Played Whack-A-Mole With Armored Vehicles and Artillery?

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

In the ongoing deadly absurdity that is Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine War, it seems like only last week that Russia was invaded — merely raided, really — by Russian expat troops allied with Kyiv, and on Thursday of this week they’re doing it again.


(Hey, that was only last week.)

Unknown numbers of Russian volunteers from the Freedom for Russia Legion and the affiliated RDK reportedly crossed the border once more into the Belgorod region, this time attempting to “liberate” the tiny border town of Shebekino.

The “Two Majors” Russian Telegram channel reported last night (courtesy of Google Translate): “Our readers report that one enemy tank (standing on the borderline) is firing at the Shebekino checkpoint. Disassembles the building. The battle was taken by about 20 border guards and up to 20 conscripts from the Russian Armed Forces.”

If these early reports are correct, this new incursion started with something almost like a pitched battle.

Once again, the Legion claims to have captured Russian equipment but, unlike last week’s raid, has yet to provide photo or video evidence:

We are the Legion ‘Freedom of Russia’, we are now near the border of our homeland. We are advancing towards Russia to bring freedom, peace and tranquility. This is just the beginning. Due to the cowardice of Putin’s jackals, we got a lot of trophies, thanks to this we will be able to arm our comrades-in-arms. We are going to liberate all of Russia from Belgorod to Vladivostok!


Let’s be generous and just say that the Legion spokesman is a bit optimistic in his assessment.

Shebekino came under some amount of fire during the night, as you can see in the videos below.

Apparently, the city of Belgorod — with about 350,000 people — was hit, too. It’s unclear whether those fires were started by drone strikes, missiles, or artillery.

It appears as though one government building is on fire.

“Losing control” is an exaggeration. Today’s raid on Shebekino will almost certainly play out just like last week’s, with Legion forces quickly returning to Ukraine and Russian troops restoring order on the Russian side.


Also, it’s impossible to tell whether that clip is CGI or merely lossy video that’s been enhanced. Whatever the case, to my eye, something looks off about it.

But it’s a serious tell about how fully committed the Russian Army is in Ukraine that Kyiv — er, the Legion — can conduct cross-border raids at will and with only light opposition. It’s a bit like Brownsville, Texas, but with joyriding soldiers instead of swimming migrants.

I kid, I kid — sort of.

What’s been most amusing is listening to Kyiv parrot Russian propaganda dating back to Russia’s small-scale invasion of 2014. Using ethnic Russians as “liberators” of Belgorod is a mirror image of the line Moscow took when Kremlin-supported separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas began this awful war nine years ago. Some even went so far as to refer to the “Belgorod People’s Republic,” a direct answer to Russia’s puppet Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” in eastern Ukraine.

Does the propaganda really mean anything? Not really. But it is amusing, and in this terrible, stupid war, you’ve got to take your laughs where you can find them.


What’s less amusing — for Moscow, anyway — is that these joyride-looking raids could end up having some small material effect on the Ukraine War’s progress. With Putin’s forces fully engaged in the east and the south, busy fighting in some places and creating fortifications to withstand Kyiv’s expected summer counteroffensive in others, there isn’t much Moscow can do but play a frustrating game of Whack-a-Mole with their fellow ethnic Russians.

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