Belgorod Region's Vyacheslav Gladkov has agreed to talk to a group of neo-Nazis with a view to freeing POWs
Belgorod Region Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Sunday that he was ready to meet the leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), a neo-Nazi group of Russian nationals fighting for Kiev, if the militants return two of Moscow's soldiers that were shown as captives in a recent video.
"If [the Russian soldiers] are alive, [I'll be at] the automobile border-crossing point Shebekino between 17:00 and 18:00," Gladkov said in a video address published on his Telegram channel. He was referring to a border crossing separating Russia's Belgorod Region from Ukraine's territory.
The governor was responding to a video published by the RDK and the 'Freedom of Russia Legion' - two neo-Nazi groups that previously claimed responsibility for several incursions into Russia this spring. Footage published by the militants shows them standing next to two Russian POWs, with one of them apparently injured.
Denis Nikitin, the RDK leader, claimed on the video that his fighters had entered the town of Novaya Tavolzhanka in Belgorod Region and offered to meet Gladkov in a local church "for a talk" in exchange for the POWs' release.
Gladkov said the fate of "our boys that are at the hands" of the militants was the only thing that prevented him from outright dismissing the militants' offer. He branded the RDK and the 'Freedom of Russia Legion' militants as "scoundrels, bastards, murderers and fascists," blaming them for civilian deaths.
Later on Sunday, the defense ministry in Moscow said its troops and border guards had successfully repelled an attack by a sabotage group that had sought to enter Russian territory from Ukraine. The militants attempted to cross a river near Novaya Tavolzhanka but were struck with artillery and dispersed. The militants then had to fall back to Ukrainian territory, the ministry's statement added.
A previous incursion by the RDK took place in late May. The attack left one civilian dead and 12 people injured, the Russian authorities said at that time. The Russian Defense Ministry announced in the wake of the raid that "over 70 Ukrainian terrorists, four armored combat vehicles, and five pickup trucks" had been destroyed in the militants' clash with the Russian forces.
Photos and videos released by the Russian ministry showed Western armored vehicles and equipment used by the Kiev-backed militants before being destroyed by the Russian troops. The Pentagon and the US State Department expressed doubts regarding the authenticity of the images.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the sabotage group had used equipment and small arms provided by several NATO nations, including the US.