Moscow earlier published photos of destroyed Western hardware on Russia's territory as Washington struggled to explain them
Military equipment and small arms provided by several NATO nations, including the US, ended up in the hands of militants who launched a cross-border raid into Russia's Belgorod region in May, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing sources linked to US intelligence.
At least four tactical vehicles initially supplied to the Ukrainian military by the US and Poland were employed in the May raid, raising concerns about Kiev's commitment to fulfilling the demands of its Western supporters, the sources told WaPo.
The US and its Western allies have consistently expressed opposition to the use of Western arms by Ukraine in attacks on Russian territory. They also urged Kiev to "carefully track the billions of dollars' worth of weapons that have flowed into the country," WaPo reported.
The attack in question occurred in late May, and in response, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that "over 70 Ukrainian terrorists, four armored combat vehicles, and five pickup trucks" had been destroyed in the clash in Belgorod. The remaining militants were subsequently forced back into Ukraine and targeted by Russian artillery. The incursion resulted in one civilian death and 12 injuries, according to Russian authorities.
The Russian military shared a series of photographs showing what appeared to be destroyed Western equipment abandoned by the militants. Some of the images depicted two M1151A1 Humvee armored cars stuck in bomb craters, while others displayed two M1224 MaxxPro armored vehicles. An AMZ Dzik-2 armored car, manufactured in Poland, was also visible in the images.
Kiev attempted to distance itself from the raid by claiming it was carried out by the "Freedom of Russia Legion" and the "Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK)," the neo-Nazi units responsible for a similar attack in the Bryansk Region in March. The Pentagon and the US State Department expressed doubts regarding the authenticity of the images.
The State Department also said that the US "does not encourage or enable attacks inside of Russia." Washington also does not "support the use of US-made equipment ... for attacks inside of Russia," it added.
According to the Washington Post, videos published by the "Freedom of Russia Legion" and the RDK militants themselves showed fighters using the Czech-made CZ Bren and Belgium's FN SCAR assault rifles. Both types of weapons were provided to Ukraine by the respective nations, the paper said, adding that "Bren and SCAR rifles are commonly distributed to Ukraine's soldiers" and foreign fighters who travel to Ukraine to combat Russian forces.
A spokesperson from the Belgian Defense Ministry informed the Washington Post that they only provided weapons to "official authorities and the regular army" in Ukraine, placing responsibility on Kiev for their usage. Poland and the Czech Republic declined to comment on the findings presented by the Washington Post.
The use of Western military supplies in an attack on Russian territory raises the issue of Kiev's accountability, Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think-tank, told WaPo. The Ukrainians "are clearly complicit here," Cancian, a retired US Marine Corps officer, added.