'False flag' fears as Putin claims Ukrainian 'terrorists' fired at civilians and 'took hostages in Russian villages'

2 March 2023, 12:37 | Updated: 2 March 2023, 12:47

Moscow has claimed that there was a Ukrainian attack within Russia
Moscow has claimed that there was a Ukrainian attack within Russia. Picture: Alamy/Getty/Google Maps

By Emma Soteriou

Fears are growing over Russian 'false flag' operations after the Vladimir Putin claimed a Ukrainian 'sabotage group' had taken people hostage in Bryansk.

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The group entered the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine, and took hostages in a shop in the village of Lubechanye, Russian state media said on Thursday.

"A group of Ukrainian saboteurs infiltrated two villages, taking local residents hostage in one of them. Soldiers from Rosgvardia clashed with the militants," TASS said, quoting an unnamed source in Russia's security services.

Putin called the incident a "terrorist act", adding that "fire was directed at civilians' in the region".

Bryansk regional governor Alexander Bogomaz said the group had shot and killed one person after crossing into Russia, with a ten-year-old child also left wounded.

Bogomaz also said Ukrainian armed forces had launched a drone attack and fired artillery shells at other areas near the border.

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The village allegedly targeted by Ukraine
The village allegedly targeted by Ukraine. Picture: Google Maps

Ukraine hit back at the claims saying the Bryansk "sabotage" reports were just "a classic deliberate provocation".

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Twitter that the Russian Federation "wants to scare its people to justify the attack on another country".

Ukrainian colonel Anatoly Shtefan echoed Mr Podolyak's remarks, accusing the Russians of a provocation.

"The Russian mass media are once again trying to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine and accuse them of provocations on the territory of the aggressor state," he saif.

"But they do not take into account the fact that soldiers of the Defence Forces of Ukraine have never resorted to provocations, are not resorting to them now - and will not resort to provocations."

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov
Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov. Picture: Alamy

There have been previous warnings of a suspected 'false flag' attack in a bid from Russia to justify further escalations in the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov called the reported events a "terrorist attack", confirming that Putin's top officials were receiving regular updates from security agencies and Russia's defence minister on the situation.

He shut down claims that Putin was set to chair an emergency meeting in response to the incident, with him instead to hold a meeting of the council when it convenes as usual on Friday.

It comes after the Institute for the Study of War said less than two days ago that Moscow was increasing its promotion of false flag information operations.

The US-based think tank said an escalation in misleading reports was likely to be an attempt to slow down incoming Western tank support.