Details on the size and scope of the operations vary greatly depending on which version of events are being considered, but some common threads in the reporting provide preliminary clarity.
An organization calling themselves "Freedom of Russia Legion" published a video on their Telegram channel.— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) May 22, 2023
"The time has come to put an end to the Kremlin dictatorship! Be brave and have no fear because we are coming home! Russia will be free!" They said after criticizing… pic.twitter.com/9a7p31em82
It seems clear that the incursion has reached the city of Belgorod, in Belgorod Oblast near the Ukrainian border. Forces calling themselves Freedom of Russia Legion containing reportedly elements of the Belarussian volunteer division and a separate group identifying itself as the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) have additionally claimed to have liberated the villages of Kozinka and Gora-Podol, also in Belgorod Oblast.
All sides would appear to agree that while no Ukrainian fighters have been identified as combatants, Ukraine is providing direct assistance and support for the operations from Ukrainian territory. US made military equipment including heavily armed fighting vehicles do appear to be in use in the operation.
There have been reports dating back at least a year of sabotage and assassination being carried out throughout Russian territory. The nature of such attacks, train derailments, bombings, fires at military supply facilities and assassinations of high profile Putin allies have appeared, almost certainly to have required the participation of Russian nationals. That effort, exclusively clandestine up until now, has moved into the open and is engaging Russian forces in direct combat on Russian soil.
The strategic and military implications of new aggressive combat operations being carried out in Russia, effectively behind the lines of Russian forces operating in eastern Ukraine are stark. With Russian forces badly depleted by very heavy casualties and stretched thin by the enormity of the Ukrainian battlefeild a completely new war in their rear would clearly set the stage for the long anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
The stated goals of the combined opposition forces are to liberate Russia from the Putin regime and bring about its downfall, achieve peace and freedom for Russians and end the war with Ukraine. Kremlin authorities define the incursions as illegal terrorist activities and vow to crush them.
Clearly the opposition has stepped out of the shadows and Putin’s war against Ukraine has come home to Russia.