Prime Minister Alexander De Croo says Belgium will ask Ukraine to clarify whether Belgian rifles supplied to Kyiv were used by pro-Ukrainian troops to attack Russia’s western border.
De Croo’s comments came on Monday after The Washington Post reported over the weekend that anti-Kremlin fighters – Freedom of Russia Legion and Russian Volunteer Corps – who launched a cross-border attack from Ukraine in Russia’s Belgorod region last month, used tactical vehicles originally given to Ukraine by the United States and Poland and carried rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic.
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“Our defence ministry and its intelligence agencies have started an investigation and are asking for information to determine what has happened exactly,” De Croo told Belgium’s Radio 1.
“European weapons are delivered to Ukraine under the condition that they are used on Ukrainian territory with the purpose of defending that territory. And we have strict controls in place to see that this is the case,” he said.
He highlighted that Belgium would take this situation “very seriously”, but declined to comment on possible consequences if the reports were confirmed.
Earlier, White House spokesperson John Kirby said Washington was also looking into reports that US vehicles and equipment “could have been involved” in the cross-border raids in Belgorod.
In an interview with Al Jazeera last month, Ilya Ponomarev, a political representative for the Freedom of Russia Legion, said, “The basic military equipment like the rifles and machineguns, they obviously are part of the regular fighters in Ukraine because both of those groups are part of the international legion, which is a part of the Ukrainian armed forces.”
“So just regular equipment is coming from there. The rest were captured during the fighting. Heavy equipment, for example, like tanks, they were captured during fights over Kharkiv region where Russian army was retreating. And we captured those tanks from there and now we’re using them in the Belgorod region,” he added.
Officials in Kyiv have said its military is involved in the incursions by Russian volunteer fighters.