The recent cross-border incursion into Russia from Ukraine has created a lot of talk and alarm about the Kremlin’s ability to defend its territory without putting its military personnel in harm’s way. Moscow’s response to the situation has been swift, with reports of successful defence against the assault in Belgorod, a region on the border between the two countries. Although they appear to have achieved nothing militarily, these types of attacks raise difficult questions for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is already 15 months into his aggressive campaign in Ukraine.
The incident has highlighted just how easily pro-Ukrainian fighters can cause disruption for the Kremlin as their counteroffensive continues to develop. This could potentially do serious damage to the Kremlin’s standing in the country and leave them struggling to respond to any other sort of aggression - an issue that was compounded by the fact that many homes and infrastructure were destroyed in the process, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
Of course, this type of attack is nothing new but it does demonstrate the difficulties the Kremlin face in defending their territories without having to put their military personnel in danger. It also highlights the advantage that independent militant groups have over the Kremlin in terms of agility and mobility – something that the Kremlin will find increasingly hard to control as they strive to maintain their military presence in Ukraine.
Furthermore, there is the added issue of the message that these attacks send to Russian citizens. The fact that such a large-scale incursion could occur with relative ease without being completely defeated by the Kremlin may reduce the level of confidence surrounding the government’s defences and lead to further unrest amongst the population.
Ultimately, the attack has raised more questions than answers in regards to the Russian government’s ability to protect its citizens and territories. After 15 months of conflict in Ukraine, it is clear that the Kremlin has not yet figured out a viable solution to the problem and with more unrest and discontent expected the future of the region remains far from certain.