Belgorod Oblast, Russia – The governor of the Russian region of Belgorod has offered to meet with a group that claims to have captured Russian regular army soldiers. The group, which calls itself the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion, reportedly raided an army base in Belgorod Oblast and took several soldiers hostage.
According to the group, the soldiers were part of a Kremlin unit sent to suppress pro-Ukrainian fighters in the region. The Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion are believed to support the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.
In a statement, the governor of Belgorod Oblast, Yevgeny Savchenko, offered to meet with the group in order to peacefully resolve the situation. “I call on the members of the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion to release the hostages and come to the negotiating table,” he said. “We can find a solution that is acceptable to all parties.”
The capture of Russian soldiers by a pro-Ukrainian group marks a new escalation in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Pro-Ukrainian fighters have been active in eastern Ukraine since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. The conflict has claimed over 13,000 lives and has caused a humanitarian crisis in the region.
The Russian government has denied involvement in the conflict, but Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of supporting separatist forces with weapons and troops. The capture of Russian soldiers by a pro-Ukrainian group could further exacerbate tensions between the two countries.