Belgium has opened an investigation into whether NATO weapons supplied to Ukraine have been used in attacks by pro-Kyiv paramilitary forces inside Russian territory.
According to a report from the Washington Post, anti-Putin fighters that have been described as “Russian citizen“-manned “so-called paramilitary organisations” in the Belgorod region of Russia were pictured with SCAR assault rifles made in Belgium and others from the Czech Republic.
In response to the report, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told public broadcaster RTBF: “We have asked our intelligence and military services to analyze this,” adding: “We are asking the Ukrainians to clarify the situation.”
“But the rule is clear: Our weapons that are provided to Ukraine are naturally [intended] for defensive purposes of the Ukrainian territory,” De Croo declared.
Belgium, which is home to the de facto capital of the European Union in Brussels, approved an arms shipment of €90 million to Ukraine in January, the largest such military aid package since the Russian invasion last year. The package included the SCAR assault rifles alleged to have wound up in the hands of the anti-Putin Russian forces in Belgorod.
The fighting in the region also reportedly saw paramilitary forces using at least four tactical vehicles originally sent to Ukraine by the United States and Poland.
Counter-Invasion or Insurgency? Kremlin and Kyiv Trade Blame as Fighting Breaks Out in Russian Belgorod Regionhttps://t.co/B3PHsrQ5Ed
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 23, 2023
The report could risk undermining the stated position of the United States and its Western NATO allies, which despite funnelling billions of dollars into Ukraine to fight the Russians, have maintained that such weapons are only intended for defensive purposes and not for attacks within the legal borders of Russia.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said: “The United States does not encourage or enable attacks inside of Russia. We have been clear about how we don’t support the use of U.S.-made equipment being used for attacks inside of Russia, including with the Ukrainians over the past week.
“Our focus is on providing Ukraine with the equipment and training they need to retake their own sovereign territory, and we have done just that.”
As previously reported, Pentagon Spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said when images of U.S.-made Humvees were published that allegedly — according to the Kremlin — showed them having been used by pro-Kyiv forces within Russia were originally published: “At this time we have not authorised any transfers of equipment, they have not asked for transfer of equipment to so-called paramilitary organisations. And we have put in place some very strict protocols in terms of end-use monitoring”.
The fighting in the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv, began late last month, reportedly launched by a group of pro-Kyiv ethnic Russians, including Russian citizens, in the paramilitary groups the Legion of Free Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK). The paramilitary fighters, who have been alleged to have Neo-Nazi extremist ideologies, have claimed that their objective is to overthrow Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin, while attempting to downplay the threat posed by such groups, has at the same time claimed that they are a front for the Zelensky government in an attempt to distract Moscow from its war effort in Ukraine. Kyiv, meanwhile has denied any involvement in the fighting or shelling of towns in Belgorod.
Ukraine is Invading and Shelling Our Border Regions, Complains Russia https://t.co/sAVxXQBmkr
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 2, 2023