Sumy Province, Ukraine (CNN) — In a joyful parade of shameless propaganda, Russian dissident fighters returning from a raid on their homeland showed up in Ukraine with a trophy, a captured Russian armored vehicle, but they struggled to stick to Kiev’s official explanation of their exploits.
Ukrainian officials said the fighters were acting alone when they crossed the Russian border and fired on Russian towns in the Belgorod region earlier this week in a widely publicized two-day raid on social media.
They were not acting alone.
Members of the Freedom Legion for Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps, both made up of Russian citizens fighting in Ukraine against their homeland, are all under the command of Ukrainian security forces.
“Was it an independent action not coordinated with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, or did they receive instructions? I asked Dennis Nikitin, the head of the far-right Russian Volunteer Corps, on Wednesday.
He replied: “Obviously everything we do, behind every decision we make, across the border [en Rusia]… it is our own decision.
But he continued to admit “encouragement and help”.
“What we do, obviously, we can ask our, say, comrades [ucranianos], friends, your help in planning. What do you think of that? Could you tell us if this is a plausible mission? Would it help Ukraine in this fight or would it make things worse? said Nikitin.
“They will say ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘it’s a good idea’, ‘it’s a bad idea’. So it’s a kind of encouragement and help.”
Nikitin didn’t wink on stage, but he might as well have done so.
Similar signals came from “Caesar”, the nickname of the spokesman for the Legion of Freedom for Russia, a more moderate anti-Putin formation of a few hundred men also dedicated to ending the war in Ukraine and to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When asked if it was true that Russian dissidents had used US-made MRAP armored vehicles, possibly even vehicles donated by the US to Ukraine, “Caesar” replied: “We also use Humvees. We buy them from international stores, war shops. Yes… anyone with money can do it.
He was wryly and knowingly repeating a Russian propaganda trope dating back to Moscow’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when the Kremlin denied its troops were on the ground and suggested pro-Moscow rebels had purchased vehicles Russians on the open market.
The use of American vehicles in the operation caused little consternation in Washington.
“The U.S. government has not approved any transfers of third-party equipment to paramilitary organizations outside of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, nor has the Ukrainian government requested any such transfers,” the Pentagon press secretary said Tuesday. , Brigadier Patrick Ryder, stressing that the United States will “closely monitor” the matter.
The West has insisted that Ukraine not use the weapons it receives from members of the NATO security alliance inside Russia. An attack on a Russian target inside Russia itself using the UK-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missile, for example, would risk bringing NATO into direct conflict with Moscow.
But MRAP armored cars are armored trucks. It’s the weapon systems that really matter.
Ukraine wants no credit for the incursion into Russia. Therefore, he used the Russians to do the job and claimed that this time they were not under orders from Ukraine.
However, Kyiv will be delighted with the result. The dissident raid had the intended effect: to destabilize Russia.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary company fighting in Ukraine alongside the Russian army, has already taken the raid as proof of the army’s incompetence.
“Sabotage and reconnaissance forces are calmly entering Russia and marching, uploading videos, driving their tanks, armored infantry vehicles. Where is the guarantee that they will not enter Moscow?… As far as I know, nobody cares about the inhabitants of the Belgorod region,” Prigozhin thundered on Tuesday in an interview with pro-Russian blogger Konstantin Dolgov . .
“I say to the elite of the Russian Federation: son of a bitch, gather your children. Send them to war. When you come to a funeral and start burying them, people will say, “It’s okay now.”
Otherwise, warned the mercenary leader who still claims to support Putin, “all these divisions can end up in what is a revolution, like in 1917”.
It is safe to assume that the descendants of the Moscow nomenklatura will not suddenly flood the doors of the recruiting offices of the armed forces or the Prigozhin war dogs.
But chaos in the ranks of the enemy equals victory, according to the doctrine of the same name of General of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerazimov.
And “Caesar” is convinced that Moscow has become nervous.
“They [los rusos que defendían Belgorod] they were too stupid and too slow. About five o’clock, about five o’clock [para reaccionar]. They’re just trying to figure out what happened. It was a mechanized company to force the counter-attack. Yesterday we destroyed this machining company. We bring you many victims,” he said in English learned at his school in Russia.
“It’s just a small start, just for recognition,” he added.