Russia Evacuates Nuclear Weapons Stockpile as 'Dissident' Invasion of Russia Continues

Members of the Russian Volunteer Corps pause during raid on Belgorod Oblast. CREDIT: Twitter

Monday, two Ukraine-backed Russian partisan groups, the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, invaded Russia. According to numerous reports, the groups took control of at least five border settlements and battled with Russian security forces. These two Russian-dissident battle groups can muster over 10,000 men. How many are involved in the operation is anyone’s guess. The fighting is continuing today. This is not the first such attack; in March, the same Ukrainian-controlled Russian forces invaded the neighboring Bryansk Oblast (Putin’s War, Week 54. More NordStream Melodrama, Russia Shows Diplomatic Weakness, and the Bakhmut Flipflop). However, it is the largest attack on Russian territory since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

The Area of Operations

The cross-border operation is based in Kharkiv Oblast and targets the bordering Russian Belgorod Oblast. The main operational area is shown in blue on the map below. The two blue arrows are areas of reported but unconfirmed cross-border attacks.

Russia Evacuates Nuclear Weapons Stockpile as 'Dissident' Invasion of Russia Continues

This animation gives a good idea of how the operation started and progressed.

As a reminder. Last fall the Russians executed a major PR campaign around their border fortifications.


The Combatants

On the Ukrainian side, there are two groups composed of ethnic Russians and defectors from the Russian Army. They are armed and equipped by Ukraine.


Russian forces are mostly FSB border troops. There are reports that Russian Army units have been shifted out of Ukraine to respond to the crisis, but so far, they have not appeared in combat video. The Russian Air Force is carrying out operations against the attackers. More ominously for the Russians, the local commander was fired from a combat command because of incompetence. This goes to my frequent critique of the Russian Army. They aren’t reluctant to fire generals but move them to other assignments. Even more ominously, a lapin is a castrated male rabbit.

Russian Reaction

When the cross-border operation kicked off, the Russians first denied it happened. That was followed up by repeated claims that all of the invasion force had been killed or captured.


A substantial area along the border is under an evacuation order.

The most serious problem for the Russians is having a nuclear weapons depot near Grayvoron called Belgorod-22. Grayvoron’s suburbs are now a combat zone, and there are numerous reports that Russia is evacuating the nuclear weapons at that storage facility.

This is a good backgrounder on Belgorod-22.

What’s Next

The top line is that Russia is not in danger of losing territory to this invasion. It should be viewed as a raid rather than an actual invasion. It will continue for a short while and then recede.

In my view, this invasion is as much an information operation as a military maneuver. The messages are that Russia can’t defend its own territory and that many Russians oppose Putin’s War in Ukraine and Putin’s rule. It makes Putin look weak, which is not a great evolutionary strategy in Russia. It opens another line of attack for Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in his feud with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Russian military hierarchy. Having to evacuate a nuclear weapons storage facility due to enemy action is not something that anyone wants to do, particularly if you have pretensions to being a first-rank world power.


There is a military impact as well.

Russia’s available combat forces are already taxed to the fullest in Ukraine. The troops available to confront this operation are limited in quantity and quality. The invasion will create a demand for Russian Army units to be deployed along the Ukrainian frontier to calm down the locals. Those forces have to come from somewhere. This is the flip side of the Russians using Belarus to tie down about 50,000 Territorial Defense Forces defending against a possible attack from that country.

As the Russian general staff plans for the coming Ukrainian offensive, they must now plan and resource a low-value but high-profile operation to defend their own frontier.

I can’t imagine the Vatnik-American demographic won’t show up to predict escalation, nuclear war, and American soldiers killed by Russians. Given the number of times this has been predicted over the last fifteen months, I’d have thought that self-respect alone would have stopped this nonsense. But it hasn’t. Once you invade a nation, slaughter its civilians, and carry out terror attacks on its cities, your ability to escalate has topped out. Russia will not use nuclear weapons because China will not permit it, not because of any humanitarian impulse but because of the damage that would to China’s economy.


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