A Russian governor has said he is willing to meet with a pro-Ukraine group of Russian fighters who are keeping two Russian soldiers captive.
The group – the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) – said it was open to exchanging the soldiers in return for a meeting with the governor of the Belgorod region.
“Most likely they killed them, as hard as it is for me to say. But if they are alive, from 5pm to 6pm – Shebekino checkpoint. I guarantee safety,” governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.
In a video posted to Telegram, a man who identified himself as the commander of the RVC appeared with two captives.
One captive appeared to be injured and lying on an operating table.
The group gave Mr Gladkov until 2pm to meet with them.
“Today until 5pm (local time), you have the opportunity to communicate without weapons and take home two Russian citizens, ordinary soldiers whom you and your political leadership sent to the slaughter,” read a joint statement by RVC and the Freedom of Russia Legion.
Later on Sunday, another pro-Ukainian Russian group, the Legion of Freedom of Russia, posted a new video on Telegram saying that Mr Gladkov did not meet them.
Meanwhile, Mr Gladkov posted on Telegram saying he held an ‘operational’ meeting with local officials.
The governor also said earlier that fighting with a “Ukrainian saboteur group” was taking place in the town of Novaya Tavolzhanka, near the Ukrainian border.
The Freedom of Russia Legion and RVC – allegedly consisting of Russian nationals – have both been involved in clashes in the area.
The Freedom of Russia Legion (FRL) attacked Belgorod twice in recent weeks.
The FRL is understood to have been established in the spring of 2022 “to fight in the ranks” of the Ukrainian army “against Putin’s armed gang”.
Ukraine has denied involvement with the group but the militia said it cooperates with the Ukrainian armed forces.