(Moscow) Russia said Thursday it repelled a group of Ukrainian “saboteurs” trying to infiltrate its territory via the border region of Bryansk, where a Ukrainian pilot had already been arrested the day before.

“The Border Guard Department of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Bryansk region foiled an attempt to enter Russian territory by a 20-man Ukrainian reconnaissance and sabotage group near the village of Slutchovsk,” said on Telegram the governor of the region, Alexandre Bogomaz.

“Units of the Russian Armed Forces as well as units of the Border Guard Forces opened fire on the enemy,” he added.

The incident was later confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which for its part mentioned a group of 15 people.

“During the clash, the enemy was defeated by artillery fire […] The sabotage group dispersed and, after suffering casualties, retreated to Ukrainian territory. There were no casualties among the Russian military,” he claimed in his daily report.

A group of Russian ultranationalists, fighting alongside Ukraine, called the “Russian Volunteer Corps”, claimed responsibility for the incursion in a video whose authenticity could not be confirmed.

In these images broadcast on their Telegram account, we see an armed man, in fatigues, handing leaflets to a resident of the region and several men firing a portable rocket launcher at an off-screen target.

The boss of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigojine, in conflict with the military hierarchy, called on “bureaucrats to come together and ensure the safety of people in border areas” and “people to do it themselves and organize squads.”

Russian authorities have reported in recent weeks several attempted incursions by “saboteurs” from Ukraine into the border regions, which are also regularly targeted by artillery bombardment or drone attacks.

On Wednesday, the Russian security services (FSB) announced that they had arrested a Ukrainian pilot whose small plane had crashed near a village in the Bryansk region.

In early March, Russian authorities reported another incursion into the Bryansk region by a group arriving from Ukraine which, according to the FSB, opened fire on a car, killing two civilians and injuring a child.

This incursion had also been claimed by the “Russian Volunteer Corps”.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered Russian forces to “do everything in their power to ensure the safety of the population” both in Russia and in Ukrainian territories under Russian control, where several pro-Russian officials have been assassinated. these last months.

Ukraine does not officially recognize “sabotage” operations on Russian territory. Kyiv notably denied any link with the attack which damaged the Crimean bridge last fall and with the assassination of a Russian military blogger on Sunday in Saint Petersburg.

In early March, however, hundreds of people attended the funeral in Kyiv of fighters from a battalion of volunteers acting on their own and killed during a “sabotage” mission in Russia.

The Kremlin on Thursday ruled out the possibility of Chinese mediation to halt the fighting in Ukraine, saying Russia, which has suffered a host of military setbacks, had no choice but to continue its assault.

“Of course China has tremendous and effective potential when it comes to its mediation services,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“But the situation with Ukraine is complex, there is no prospect of a political settlement. And, at the moment, we have no other option but to continue the special military operation,” he added, using the Russian authorities’ euphemism to describe the offensive in Ukraine.

Mr Peskov was asked about the possibility of Chinese mediation, after French President Emmanuel Macron told Beijing that he was counting on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, close to Vladimir Putin, to “bring Russia to its senses”.

At a summit in Moscow in March, MM. Putin and Xi have shown their good understanding, posing as strategic allies determined to resist American hegemonism.

China, for its part, has outlined the beginnings of a Ukrainian peace plan, but this remains very vague and very theoretical, Beijing insisting on contradictory principles, such as respect for the territorial integrity of States, and therefore for the Ukraine, and the defense of Russia’s diplomatic and security interests.

While Beijing says it is officially neutral, Xi has never condemned the Russian offensive and never spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Russian President Vladimir Putin for his part spoke Thursday in the Kremlin with the leaders installed by Russia in four Ukrainian regions which it has claimed to be annexed in 2022.

Mr. Putin assured that the objective of the Russian army was to push the Ukrainians “to such a distance that they will not be able to inflict any damage on us”, despite a front line which has remained largely frozen since the last fall.

During these four short televised meetings, Vladimir Putin applied himself to treating the leaders of the occupation as during his traditional meetings with the governors of the Russian regions.

They thus mentioned social allowances for large families, the state of the roads after the snowfall or the lack of vegetable storage facilities, without saying a word about the fighting which is still raging.