Starting Monday, just following the large cross-border raid out of Ukraine on villages in Russia’s Belgorod, the United States began immediately distancing itself, with the State Department saying in a statement, “We have made very clear to the Ukrainians that we don’t enable or encourage attacks outside Ukrainians’ borders…”, while adding that it is “up to Ukraine to decide how they want to conduct their military operations.”
But the ‘sabotage’ attack, which Moscow called cross-border terrorism and which killed one civilian and injured at least twelve, appeared to involve American-supplied equipment, featured in a number of photographs. The gunmen, who wore tactical and military uniforms and drove large armored vehicles, may have held several areas of Russian territory for up to several hours, but by Tuesday the Kremlin announced its forces had wiped out the insurgents and destroyed their military hardware. The Kremlin further said it was a Ukrainian attempt to “divert attention” from Russia’s victory in Bakhmut.
Russia later on Tuesday updated the numbers of attackers it allegedly killed in putting down the strike to 70, while also insisting that they were Ukrainians. Russian forces even deployed air strikes and artillery fire to beat them back. But Kiev has denied involvement, instead pointing to two anti-Putin Russian paramilitary groups. They owned up to the operation, stating through their media channels: “The Legion and the RDK continue to liberate the Belgorod region.” The statement added: “Once again, the myth that Russian citizens are safe and the Russian Federation is strong has been destroyed.”
Now with photographs appearing to show the cross-border attackers’ US armored vehicles, it’s put the Biden administration in an awkward spot, given prior public statements that the equipment Washington gives Kiev is not intended to be used for direct attacks inside Russia.
When asked about the American military hardware used by the attackers during a daily briefing, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller didn’t flat-out deny the allegations, but merely said the US administration is “skeptical, at this time, of the veracity” of the reports of US-provided weapons used to strike Russia in Belgorod.
“We don’t have perfect clarity of the information, we’re looking at the same fuzzy images [on social media] … at this time we’re skeptical of their veracity,” Milller said.
But the same afternoon as the State Department’s ham handed attempt to feign ignorance and distance itself, the Financial Times confirmed that the militias did indeed use US armored vehicles.
“Far-right militias who stormed a Russian region bordering Ukraine this week used US-made tactical vehicles in the attack, raising questions over Kyiv’s support for the Ukraine-based Russian extremist groups.” [emphasis ZH]
FT was also able to obtain confirmation from the militants themselves, laying the case to rest:
Ukraine has denied direct involvement in the raid on Monday, but one military official acknowledged “co-operating” with the nationalist groups, who on Monday entered Russian territory to “liberate” a village. Denis Nikitin, leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, told the Financial Times that his fighters assaulting the Belgorod region were in possession of American-made military vehicles.
These included at least two M1224 MaxxPro armoured vehicles and several Humvees, he said, while declining to disclose how they were obtained. Some but not all images of US-made vehicles in the raid were taken on the Russian side of the border, according to FT analysis of the videos and photos. Russian defence ministry footage separately showed the US-made tactical vehicles damaged by gunfire and apparently abandoned.
Ukrainian government officials have also since acknowledged some level of cooperation with the brutal Russian neo-Nazi groups believed behind the incursion, per the FT:
Initially, Ukrainian officials publicly kept their distance from the Russian sabotage units. But on Tuesday, Andriy Chernyak, an official from Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, HUR, acknowledged for the first time some form of co-operation with the Russian Volunteer Corps and Free Russia Legion.
“Of course, we communicate with them. Of course, we share some information,” Chernyak said. “And, one might say, we even co-operate.”
This appears to validate Russia’s longtime accusations directed at Washington regarding Ukraine’s intent to use Western supplied arms against its sovereign territory.
The Belgorod situation also proves that US-supplied weaponry is clearly proliferating beyond the Ukrainian armed forces, despite the Biden administration’s insistence the Pentagon is providing proper oversight.
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Below is a fresh overview of the Russian account of the Monday into Tuesday attack via TASS:
- Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian troops shelled about 20 communities in the Belgorod Region, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said. They used a multiple-launch rocket system and dropped explosive devices on residential buildings and people using drones.
- Some 29 residential buildings and three vehicles have been damaged. Power outages have been registered in 14 populated localities. It will be possible to begin restoring service as soon as the situation allows, the governor clarified.
- Ukraine has launched an unprecedented information attack on the region’s inhabitants, spreading rumors that tanks are entering the region and that a nuclear catastrophe looms. Ukraine’s goal is to intimidate people and spread panic in the region, the governor said…
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