Biden administration officials have said that the US is looking into reports of US military equipment being used in a cross-border raid that was launched from Ukraine into Russia’s Belgorod region.
Both Russia and the militias that launched the attack said US armored vehicles were used in the raid. But the Biden administration is claiming the reports aren’t confirmed.
“We are looking into those reports, but as I’ve said, we have not yet reached any conclusions about them,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a press briefing on Wednesday. Miller refused to say what potential consequences there would be for Ukraine if US equipment were used in the attack or if there would be any at all.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also said the US was looking into the reports. “We’ve been pretty darn clear: We don’t support the use of US-made equipment for attacks inside Russia … we’ve been clear about that with the Ukrainians,” he said.
The Kremlin said Wednesday that the use of US military equipment in a cross-border raid in Russia’s Belgorod region demonstrates the West’s growing involvement in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Miller also claimed that the US has not come to a conclusion as to who carried out the attacks. Two groups of Russians who had volunteered to fight for Kyiv took credit for the raid, the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps.
The Russian Volunteer Corps has members who are open neo-Nazis and white nationalists, including its leader, Denis Nikitin. He told Financial Times that his fighters were armed with US armored vehicles, including at least two MRAPs, and several Humvees. Videos and pictures posted by Russia’s military matched Nikitin’s claims.
Russia has described the attackers as a “Ukrainian sabotage group” and said the Russian military killed 70 people. However, Ilya Ponomarev, a political representative for the Freedom of Russia Legion, denied that any of the group’s fighters were killed in comments to France 24.
Ponomarev said that the Freedom of Russia Legion is part of the Ukrainian military and received a “green light” from Kyiv to launch the raid. He insisted that “not a single Ukrainian soldier has entered Russian soil” and said the operation was “a totally autonomous operation by Russians inside Russia.”
Ukrainian officials have tried to distance themselves from the operation, saying that the Russian volunteers were only part of Ukraine’s military when they were fighting in Ukraine. But The Times of London reported that Discord leaks show Ukraine had been planning attacks on Russian territory using Russian volunteer groups for some time. One document said the Russian citizens fighting for Ukraine are armed with “various qualitative types of NATO weapons.”