White House Investigating Reports of U.S. Weapons in Belgorod Attack

U.S. officials are “looking into” reports that American-made military equipment was used by a pro-Ukraine Russian militia during an attack along the Russian border earlier this week, said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

On Monday, head of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) Denis Nikitin said that his militias had at least two U.S.-made MRAPs, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and several Humvees during their raid on Belgorod, a Russian region located roughly 25 miles north of the Ukraine border. An investigation from the New York Times also examined footage reportedly taken in Belgorod that showed at least three MRAPs being used during the raid.

The U.S. has sent over 500 MRAPs to Ukraine as of May 9, according to the State Department. But the Biden Administration was immediately skeptical about U.S. equipment being used in the attack, and Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. had not “approved any third-party transfers of equipment to paramilitary organizations” outside of Ukraine’s military. Ryder added that Kyiv had also not “requested” such transfers to be made.

On Wednesday, however, Kirby told reporters that the White House was “looking into those reports that the U.S. equipment and vehicles could have been involved” in Belgorod, reported ABC News.

U.S. Looking Into Belgorod Attack
Fighters of the Russian Volunteer Corps attend a presentation for the media in northern Ukraine, not far from the Russian border, on May 24, 2023. U.S. officials are looking into reports that American-made equipment was used during a raid on a Russian border town by the Russian Volunteer Corps and other pro-Ukraine groups.
Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty

Department of State spokesman Matt Miller also confirmed during the department’s daily briefing that officials were looking into the reports, adding that officials had “not reached any conclusions at this time.”

“As a general policy matter, we have been clear that we don’t support the use of U.S.-made equipment being used for attacks inside of Russia,” Miller added.

Both the RDK and the Freedom of Russia Legion—which are both made up of volunteer Russian fighters who align with Ukraine—claimed responsibility for the attack, which included an overnight drone attack on key infrastructure in the region. CNN reported that artillery on Tuesday night sent nine people to the hospital, according to Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, and the drone strikes on Monday caught two houses on fire. Gladkov also reported one civilian casualty on Tuesday due to crossfire.

At one point, the Russian defectors had also claimed that it had “completely liberated” a Belgorod settlement. By Tuesday, however, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assessed that Russian forces may have succeeded and driving the militia forces out of Russian territory. On Wednesday, Russian officials also said that “the nationalist formations have been blocked and destroyed.”

Russian leadership previously placed partial blame on the White House for the attack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a briefing this week that it was “no secret” that U.S.-made equipment was continuously being delivered to Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

“It is no secret that this equipment is being used against our own military,” Peskov said. “And it is no secret for us that the direct and indirect involvement of Western countries in this conflict is growing by the day.”

Peskov has also described the militia as “Ukrainian militants,” although Ukrainian officials have denied that Kyiv’s military was involved in the raid. Ukrainian National Security Advisor Oleksiy Danilov told CNN correspondent Frederik Pleitgen during an interview Tuesday that the fighters “are Russians, it is their country and they have the right to be there.”

“There are some Russians who are on the side of the light and who went to deal with the darkness that exists in Russia now,” Danilov added.

Newsweek emailed the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.

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