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Geography problem: Why Russia spreads misinformation about capture of Ryzhivka and reality in gray zone

Geography problem: Why Russia spreads misinformation about capture of Ryzhivka and reality in gray zone Photo: Ukrainian military preparing for a possible Russian offensive in Sumy region (

Russian saboteurs attempted to capture the village of Ryzhivka in the border zone between the Sumy and Kursk regions. The story ended with an unconvincing video, the enemy flag was destroyed, and the village is under Ukrainian control now.

Read more about how the Russian forces captured Ryzhivka in three days, what is really happening in the gray zone, and whether there is a threat of a breakthrough in the Sumy region in the material by RBC-Ukraine.


How the capture of Ryzhivka by Kadyrov turned out to be fake

The day before, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, posted information about the capture of the village of Ryzhivka. According to him, the settlement was seized in three days by the Akhmat regiment together with other units.

The post was accompanied by videos showing mortar fire, tanks, artillery, FPV drone strikes, and the advancement of sabotage groups in the east of Ryzhivka. Additionally, the footage depicted a Russian soldier with the Russian tricolor allegedly inside the village council building.

Information about clashes in the border region of the Sumy region was also spread by Russian war correspondents. However, they spoke not of large-scale offensive actions and the capture of the village, but of infiltration by sabotage and reconnaissance groups.

As the head of the Bilopillia municipal community, Yurii Zarko, stated, Ryzhivka is practically on the front line, and the state border runs through the village. This allows saboteurs to enter from time to time, taking advantage of geographic features such as rivers and forests. However, Kadyrov's footage does not apply to Ryzhivka.

In the sense that there are no such buildings, no such river as we saw in the photos on social media,” he added.

In his opinion, the loud statements may be a response to the spring raid of the Russian Volunteer Corps to the village of Tyotkino in the Kursk region. Or it could be an information and psychological operation to sow panic.

"It's very difficult to say what logic is behind this. Maybe it's just a desire to divert our forces, sow uncertainty, primarily among civilians, that the situation may change, to create some panic. But it won't work because our people have already learned to distinguish information," he added.

The Russian independent Telegram channel Agency believes that only the last part of the video was filmed in Ryzhivka. Therefore, Kadyrov's statement looked like a fake from the very beginning. The Ukrainian OSINT project Cyberboroshno emphasizes that the military also learned about the capture of the village from the news.

"As a rule, after the shelling, the Russians bring in their sabotage and reconnaissance groups. The goal is to check the defense line, identify our firing points, conduct reconnaissance on-site, and try to spread our forces. In addition, there may be tasks regarding certain diversions, such as identifying and destroying air defense means," he explained in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

What really happened: statements by Zelenskyy and the military

On the morning of June 10, the head of the Center for Countering Disinformation, Andriy Kovalenko, said that there were no active hostilities in the border areas of the Sumy region.

“As of now, this is not the beginning of what happened in the Kharkiv region. The Russians tried to check the defense in the direction of Ryzhivka, which is a satellite of the Russian village of Tyotkino. The defense forces control the situation, the enemy suffered fire damage," he noted.

He also added that Kadyrov's fake could have been a bet on the informational component. However, the threat of a breakthrough by the Russian troops remains.

According to the spokesman for the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Andriy Kovaliov, there are no Russian troops in Ryzhivka. The Russian flag that was hung on one of the buildings was mined.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces realized that this could be a deadly provocation by saboteurs or those bribed by the occupiers. Therefore, the flag was “demined using drones, and there is no more Russian flag in Ryzhivka, he emphasized.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also reassured Ukrainians. He stated that the Defense Forces fully controlled the situation in the Sumy region and successfully destroyed enemy sabotage groups.

"As for the village of Ryzhivka, the occupant attempted to carry out a propaganda operation there. As of this morning, the Russian flag in the village has been destroyed, and there is no presence of the occupant," he added.

The location of the village and the possibility of the Russian forces to get to the Sumy region

Ryzhivka is located in the Sumy region, near the border, just two kilometers from the settlement of Tyotkino in the Kursk region. The village is so close that it even shares a street with the Russian satellite.

It should be noted that fighters from the Freedom of Russia Legion, the Russian Volunteer Corps, and the Siberian Battalion, who fight for Ukraine, have repeatedly visited Tyotkino. The Ukrainian village has almost no people, and the road along the border is mined. Local head Serhiy Anikin said that as of June 10, nine people remained there.

Geography problem: Why Russia spreads misinformation about capture of Ryzhivka and reality in gray zone

Photo: Ryzhivka is a few kilometers from an important road to Sumy, but it is unlikely that the Russian forces are preparing a breakthrough there (

According to DeepState analysts, the situation has not changed since 2022. Ryzhivka is located in a gray zone where sabotage groups regularly enter. That is, such an action could have been carried out on any other day.

The primary issue with Ryzhivka is its geography. DeepState emphasizes that there is no strategic value in deploying large Ukrainian forces there as this requires control over Tyotkino.

"Ryzhivka is located in a border strip. It is separated from Ukrainian territory by the Seim River and forests, allowing occasional operations by Russian saboteurs. However, active counter-sabotage measures are ongoing," explained Kovaliov regarding the village's geographic specifics.

Maps indicate that Ryzhivka is approximately 7 km from the R44 highway, leading to both Putyvl and Sumy. However, military expert Oleksandr Musiienko does not see the village as having significant tactical importance for opening a new front.

"Yes, they are probing the defense lines and conducting provocations, but there are no signs that an invasion with more forces will take place here," Musiienko explained.

Considering the current number of Russian forces along the Sumy border, it is unlikely that a major offensive is being prepared in this sector. The enemy's staging areas are still concentrated in the settlements of Sudzha (Kursk region) and Grayvoron (Belgorod region) towards Velyka Pysarivka.

"These forces occasionally relocate, and sabotage groups operate frequently in the Bilopillya community area and beyond. Of course, this is a probing of the defense, but I would not talk about a deeper and more serious offensive," Musiyenko concluded.

Why does Russia need a psychological operation with the capture of Ryzhivka

Ramzan Kadyrov often publishes videos of Chechen militants' trips and battles in Ukraine. Independent observers have repeatedly written that they have no real achievements and that the videos were filmed in the rear. Because of this, Kadyrov's troops are usually called “tick-tock troops.”

“It is known that the Kadyrov troops were in the Kursk region. Therefore, one of the units could have entered Ryzhivka but was repelled by our forces' fire. That's it, the question is settled," explains military expert Oleksandr Musiienko.

Therefore, the expert agrees with the military's opinion that the raid was an information and psychological operation.

"It's no secret that the leadership of the Armed Forces and military intelligence warned that there were threats to the Sumy region. The number of attacks is increasing. And the corresponding actions (psyop - ed.) are carried out to intimidate the population, sow panic, and provoke the redeployment of our troops,” he added.

Border Guard Service spokesman Andrii Demchenko said that the number of attempts by saboteurs to enter the Sumy region has recently decreased. Previously, enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups were pushed back several times a week.

"It is possible that this was the work of an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group, but without combat clashes. In fact, they went there (to Ryzhivka - ed.) to take pictures,” he noted.

Sources: statements by military speakers, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, head of the Bilopillia community Yurii Zarko, spokesman for the State Border Guard Service Andrii Demchenko, DeepState analyst, commentary by Oleksandr Musiienko, head of the Center for Military and Legal Studies.