John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said that U. S. officials were "looking into" reports claiming that American-made equipment was used by an anti-Ukraine Russian militia in an attack on the Russian border this week.
Denis Nikitin, the head of the Russian Volunteer Corps, said on Monday that his militias used at least two MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles) made in the United States, as well as several Humvees, during their raids on Belgorod. Belgorod is a Russian region situated roughly 25 miles northeast of the Ukraine border. A New York Times investigation also examined footage reportedly shot in Belgorod, which showed at least three MRAPs used during the raid.
According to the State Department, the U. S. sent over 500 MRAPs into Ukraine as of May 9. The Biden Administration was skeptical of the use of U. S. equipment in the attack. Pentagon spokesman Brigadier-General Patrick Ryder told journalists on Tuesday that U. S. officials had not "approved third-party transfers" of equipment to paramilitary groups outside of Ukraine's army. Ryder also said that Kyiv has not "requested", such transfers.
Matt Miller, the Department of State's spokesman, confirmed at the daily briefing of the department that officials were investigating the reports. He added that officials "had not reached any conclusions" at this time.
Both the RDK (Russian Defense Corps) and Freedom of Russia Legion (Ukrainian-aligned volunteer Russian fighters) claimed responsibility for the attack. This included an overnight drone strike on key infrastructure in that region. CNN reported that the drone strike on Monday set two houses ablaze and that the artillery attack on Tuesday night sent 9 people to the hospital. According to Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, nine people were taken to hospital by the artillery. Gladkov reported that there was also a civilian casualty due to crossfire on Tuesday.
The Russian defectors also claimed at one point that they had "completely liberated", a Belgorod settlement. The Institute for the Study of War, however, estimated that Russian forces had succeeded in driving the militias out of Russian territory by Tuesday. On Wednesday, Russian officials said that "the Nationalist Formations have been Blockade and destroyed."
Previously, the Russian leadership blamed the White House in part for the attack. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, told reporters this week at a press briefing that it was "no surprise" that U. S. made equipment was being continuously delivered to Ukraine's Armed Forces.
Peskov stated that it was no secret that the equipment was being used against our military."It is no secret to us that the direct or indirect involvement of Western nations in this conflict is increasing by the day."
Peskov also called the militia "Ukrainian militants," but Ukrainian officials denied that Kyiv’s military was involved in this raid. Oleksiy Danilov, Ukrainian National Security Advisor, told CNN correspondent Frederikpleitgen in an interview on Tuesday that the fighters were "Russians," and that it was their country.