Ukraine Situation Report: White House Investigating If U.S. Vehicles Used In Raid Into Russia

Two days after self-proclaimed ‘anti-Putin Russian partisans’ staged a daring cross-border incursion into Belgorod Oblast, that region of Russia remains a hotspot.

The regional governor says more Ukrainian drone and artillery attacks have occurred. Meanwhile, the partisans claimed victory in a public after-action report despite Kremlin statements to the contrary and the White House vowed to investigate the exact circumstances surrounding the U.S. vehicles Russia says were used in Monday’s raid.

“The night was not entirely peaceful,” Gov. Vachyslav Gladkov said Wednesday on his Telegram channel. “There have been a large number of drone attacks. Most of the air defense systems…dealt with [the attacks], but there are damages in Belgorod, in the Borisovsky district, in the Belgorod district: cars, private houses, office buildings. The most important thing is that there are no casualties at all.”

In addition, Gladkov reported that “a border crossing in the village of Kozinka, Graivoronsky urban district, came under fire from the Armed Forces of Ukraine. There is one victim, an 85-year-old grandmother with a slight contusion…”

And there were still “more than 550 people in temporary accommodation centers” as a result of the incursion,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the two groups that carried out the incursion – The Freedom For Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) – declared victory Wednesday during a joint press conference.

And they claimed that the vehicles used during the operation – video of which they published purporting to be during the raid which you can see below – were Ukrainian that had been captured by Russia near the embattled Donetsk coal-mining city of Bakhmut.

“Together with the RDK on the territory of Russia, we used the equipment that the army of the Kremlin zombies had taken away from the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Bakhmut,” the Freedom For Russia Legion said, according to a statement on its Telegram channel. “We successfully ‘retrofeiled’ this technique and returned it back.”

The total losses for the operation “amounted to two people dead and 10 wounded. In contrast to the hypocritical statements of propagandists who are unable to win and therefore paint huge losses for us.”

“Our struggle continues,” the Freedom For Russia Legion said. “The operation in the Grayvoron region was successful and its goals were achieved. The enemy is defeated, part shamefully fled; we captured a large amount of equipment and took prisoners. We will not betray the idea of a Free Russia, the hope of Russians, we will return truth and justice to Russia. We will come again. Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, Voronezh, Rostov, Moscow – wait for us.”

In Belgorod Oblast, “we witnessed the unscrupulousness and cruelty of Putin’s troops: while the legionnaires were passing through settlements without touching the locals, the cannon artillery and aircraft of the [Russian Federation] Armed Forces were working in peaceful cities. Is this the same concern for citizens that the Kremlin is talking about? We proved that Putin’s troops were completely unprepared for the organized resistance of the Russians and are ready to wipe out their own lands from the face of the earth, so as not to show weakness.”

The Russian Armed Forces “are demoralized and unprepared,” the statement continued. “They practically did not carry out resistance, despite the huge numerical superiority. Because our goal is not purses and power, but liberation and justice in Russia, and the truth, as we know, always wins.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday continued Moscow’s party line that the incursion was a deadly failure.

“The nationalist formations were stopped and annihilated during the counterterrorism operation, which involved airstrikes, artillery fire, and active actions of the units guarding the state border of the Western Military District,” he said during his open remarks at the Defense Ministry Board Session Wednesday.

“After being driven back into Ukraine, the remaining nationalists were repeatedly attacked until they were completely eliminated. More than 70 Ukrainian terrorists were neutralized, as well as motor and armored vehicles. Russia will keep responding to such actions of Ukrainian militants promptly and rigorously.”

And in Washington D.C., White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. is “looking into those reports that the U.S. equipment and vehicles could have been involved.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller offered similar sentiments Wednesday during his media briefing.

“We are looking into the reports,” he said. “We’ve obviously seen the reports by media organizations over the last 24 hours or so. As a general policy matter, we have been clear that we don’t support the use of U.S.-made equipment being used for attacks inside of Russia, and we’re looking into the reports.  But we have not reached any conclusions at this time.”

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

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On the battlefield, the fighting in and around Bakhmut continues, according to Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.

“During the day, there is a decrease in the intensity of fighting on the flanks in the suburbs of Bakhmut,” she said on her Telegram channel. “But this does not mean that the enemy is weakening. On the contrary, the enemy is trying to strengthen on the flanks and relies on artillery fire, carrying out constant attacks. At the same time, our troops manage to advance little by little.”

In the city of Bakhmut itself, “the number of enemy assaults has decreased,” Maliar said. “The enemy replaces units.”

Our defenders control part of the “Litak” district in the southwestern part of the city.

And speaking of Bakhmut, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group that bore the brunt of the battle there for Russia, continued to spout off against the Russian Defense Ministry.

Among other things, Prigozhin said Russia’s goal of demilitarizing the country has backfired, while acknowledging that Russian troops have killed civilians and agreed with Western estimates that he’s lost more than 20,000 men in the battle for Bakhmut, The Associated Press reported.

“We are in a situation where we can simply lose Russia,” Prigozhin said in a lengthy interview with Konstantin Dolgov, a political operative and pro-war blogger, according to The Washington Post.

“We must introduce martial law. We unfortunately … must announce new waves of mobilization; we must put everyone who is capable to work on increasing the production of ammunition,” he said. “Russia needs to live like North Korea for a few years, so to say, close the borders … and work hard.”

The New York Times on Wednesday reported that the May 3 drone attack on the Kremlin was likely orchestrated by Ukraine’s special military or intelligence units.

That move is “the latest in a series of covert actions against Russian targets that have unnerved the Biden administration,” the newspaper reported.

“U.S. intelligence agencies do not know which unit carried out the attack and it was unclear whether President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or his top officials were aware of the operation, though some officials believe Mr. Zelensky was not.”

The U.S. intelligence agencies “reached their preliminary assessment in part through intercepted communications in which Russian officials blamed Ukraine and other communications in which Ukrainian officials said they believed their country was responsible for the attack.”

U.S. officials told the Times that their level of confidence that the Ukrainian government directly authorized the Kremlin drone attack is “low” but that is because intelligence agencies do not yet have specific evidence identifying which government officials, Ukrainian units or operatives were involved.

We reached out to the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate and will update this story with any information provided.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that South Korea “is proceeding with the transfer of hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds for Ukraine.” It’s a move, the newspaper reported, that “U.S. officials said would make Kyiv’s planned offensive against Russian forces effective and allow the White House to delay a fraught decision about whether to supply cluster munitions banned by many countries.”

The decision “marks a turnabout by Seoul, which had promised the artillery in November but then balked at providing lethal assistance, following months of U.S. pleas for help as the Pentagon’s own supply of artillery dwindles.”

South Korea is transferring the shells to the U.S., which will send them to Ukraine. The White House declined to comment, as did a South Korean government spokesman in Seoul. 

The Pentagon declined to say how the shells are being sent or when the transfer is to be completed, but acknowledged that it has been in discussion with Seoul on buying its ammunition.

The State Department on Wednesday announced its approval of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Ukraine of a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles System, or NASAMS and related equipment for an estimated cost of $285 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress.

Ukraine has asked to buy a NASAMS that includes: “one AN/MPQ-64F1 Sentinel Radar, a Fire Distribution Center (FDC); canister launchers, secure communications, GPS receivers, code loaders, and cable sets; tool kits; test equipment; support equipment; prime movers; generators; technical documentation; spare parts; U.S. Government and contractor technical support; and other related elements of logistics and program support,” according to a State Department media release.

The system, when delivered, will join several already on the ground in Ukraine protecting its skies. The U.S. has already promised or provided Ukraine with eight NASAMS and missiles as part of its $38 billion in security assistance to that country under the Biden administration.

This is the first FMS of an advanced air defense system to Ukraine and the first FMS above the Congressional notification threshold since an April 2022 request to purchase $165 million in non-standard ammunition. 

The first tranche of National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles Systems or NASAMS have arrived in Ukraine. (Raytheon/Kongsberg Defense) Kongsberg

You can get a sense of what it is like for Ukrainian forces to hunt down Russian tanks in this video compiled by Ukraine’s UNITED24 state media outlet.

More video has emerged of Ukrainian troops firing a round from an M58 MICLIC (Mine Clearing Line Charge), a system that shoots a 350-foot long line containing 5 pounds per linear foot of C-4 explosives. It is primarily used by Ukraine both to clear mines, which it appears to be doing in this video below, as well as a strike weapon, including in urban areas, to devastating effect.

Residents of southeastern Crimea and southwestern Russia had an interesting view Wednesday of what appeared to be smoke rising near the Kerch Bridge, which had been attacked on Oct. 8. 2022. But the smoke was not from an attack but “exercises” according to the Russian RIA Novosti media outlet’s Telegram channel.

“Traffic on the [Kerch] bridge will be opened until 11.30, the smoke observed at the site is associated with exercises,” RIA Novisti reported, citing local officials.

And finally, things are not always what they seem. Especially in the woods, at war, as these tree-camouflaged Ukrainian troops display in the video below.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.