Anti-Kremlin fighters claim Russian soldiers have been ‘caught’ in Ukraine.
Fighters opposed to the Moscow regime claim to have captured Russian soldiers in Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border.
The senior official of Belgorod responded that he had agreed to meet the men’s captors if they were still alive.
Later, however, the fighters stated that the governor “lacked the courage” to meet with them and that they would turn over their captives to Ukraine.
Russia has placed the responsibility for recent border attacks on Ukraine.
Kyiv denies direct involvement.
Sunday, the Russian army reported that its ordnance had struck a group of “terrorists” near the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka, adding that “the enemy dispersed and retreated.”
Earlier, a group of paramilitaries announced via the Telegram app that they had captured two men but would release them if the governor of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, agreed to negotiate.
The video purported to depict both captives, but the BBC was unable to independently confirm their identities.
The message was published by the Liberty of Russia Legion (FRL) as a joint statement with the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK).
Mr. Gladkov responded with his own Telegram video, stating that he would consent to the negotiations if the soldiers were shown to be alive, but that he believed they had likely been killed.
Later, the RDK published a second video, which appeared to show even more detainees and stated that Mr. Gladkov had failed to attend the meeting.
According to the RDK, neither the military nor the civilian leadership cares about the fate of the captured men.
In the meantime, the FRL characterized the Russian government as “vile and cowardly.” They stated that they would now deliver over the prisoners to Ukraine in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Who are the Ukrainian militants infiltrating Russia?
Both organizations oppose President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which he launched in February of last year and wish to overthrow.
According to Ukrainian officials, the two paramilitary organizations are comprised of Russian nationals seeking to establish a “security zone” for Ukrainians.
The RDK gained notoriety in March for a cross-border assault in the Bryansk region of Russia. Its leader is allegedly a Russian nationalist with ties to neo-Nazis.
The FRL is an unconventional organization that battles alongside Ukrainian forces against Russian forces.
In his video, Mr. Gladkov referred to the combatants in question as “murderers, fascists, and scoundrels,” but he promised to “guarantee safety” if the negotiations proceeded.
Even though they asked him to meet them in Novaya Tavolzhanka, he said it was too hazardous and that he would meet them in Shebekino at a checkpoint.
Since the video, Mr. Gladkov has not commented on the events, but he has posted photos of a meeting with regional and federal officials.
Recent attacks in Belgorod include a significant incursion across the border that, according to Moscow, resulted in the deaths of 70 insurgents late last month.
Kyiv has denied direct involvement with these assaults.
However, it has portrayed the escalating violence on Russian soil as the inevitable result of Russia’s invasion last year.