(RightWing.org) – In a new embarrassment for Russia’s leadership, anti-Putin rebels crossed the border from Ukraine and seized territory near the city of Belgorod. Russian forces managed to push the invaders back, but the attack exposed the growing weakness of the country’s military. Russia is now claiming US-made vehicles were used in the raid; is this a distraction or a warning that the war could escalate?
On May 22, troops from two pro-Ukrainian military units, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Free Russia Legion, crossed from Ukraine into Russia and seized control of several villages. After two days of fighting, they were pushed back across the border, but it’s been a serious embarrassment for the Putin regime.
If two obscure units made up of renegade Russian soldiers and former football hooligans can invade Russia’s own territory in light vehicles, what will Ukraine’s new armored brigades, equipped with modern Western tanks, do to Russia’s battered invasion forces?
Now the Kremlin is focusing on the equipment the raiders used. On May 24, the Russian defense ministry released photos of destroyed vehicles, including US-made HMMWVs and mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAP), and complained that American weapons are being used against their forces.
However, so far, it’s impossible to confirm when or where the photos were taken. They could have been taken inside Ukraine any time since last February — or, according to one former tow truck operator on Twitter, they could have been staged.
It’s no secret that the US has supplied Ukraine with HMMWVs and other light tactical vehicles, like the MRAPs, for use against Russia — and Russian Volunteer Corps leader Denis Nikitin has already claimed his men used some of those vehicles for the raid. What’s less clear is why Russia is highlighting their use. They might be trying to distract attention from the dramatic failure of their border defenses.
Alternatively, this could be another veiled threat of escalating the war beyond Ukraine if the US and its allies don’t stop supplying the defenders with weapons. But, with dozens of Western tanks ready to roll when spring comes and Ukrainian pilots due to start training on F-16s, the West looks ready to call Putin’s bluff.
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