Russian Raiders Vow Return After Retreat: ‘You Will See Us Again’
A group commander acknowledged using US-made weapons but suggested they had been bought on the black market.
In what was described as an almost lighthearted press conference in a wooded area near the Russian border, the leaders of two Russian partisan units celebrated their recent armed incursion into the Belgorod region–and promised they’d be back.
Denis Kapustin, the self-described commander of the far-right Russian Volunteer Corps, acknowledged that American-made vehicles were used during the raid but denied that they had come from the Ukrainian military. He suggested that the equipment, which apparently included MRAP armored vehicles and humvees, had previously been seized by Russian troops during fighting inside Ukraine and had reached his forces through the black market.
"I know exactly where I got my weapons from,” said Kapustin, who is also known as Denis Nikitin and by the nickname White Rex. “Unfortunately not from the Western partners.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday the U.S. was investigating the possible use of U.S. vehicles during the raid. “We’ve been pretty clear we don’t support the use of US-made equipment for attacks inside Russia,” Kirby told reporters. “We’ve been clear about that with the Ukrainians.”
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“Western military aid unfortunately goes back and forth, being raided,” Kapustin said, according to Reuters. “In Bakhmut, for instance, I know that a lot of armored vehicles, American armored vehicles, got raided by the Russian forces." (Russia took substantial control of the eastern city of Bakhmut last week after a grinding, months-long battle.)
While Ukraine insists the Russian partisan units are independent and self-directed, Kapustin said Ukrainian support included planning assistance, fuel, food, medicine, and medical care. He didn’t mention weapons.
The cross-border assault by the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion took Russian officials by surprise and provoked gloating from the attackers and anger within Russia. “The reaction was slow, panicked, disorganized, and didn’t begin for hours,” a commander who asked to be identified by the call-sign Cesar said at the press conference. The combat groups say their goal is to topple Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Analysts said the attackers substantially withdrew from Belgorod after two days and fully returned to Ukrainian territory Wednesday. Russian officials said 70 “Ukrainian nationalists” had been killed in the counterattack, while Kapustin claimed the total losses were two dead and 10 wounded.
"I think you will see us again on that side," Kapustin told reporters. The 1,200-mile Russia-Ukraine land border “is pretty long,” he said. “Yet again there will be a spot where things will get hot."
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