A group of American specialists assisted Ukraine in modernizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that were subsequently used in an attack deep inside Russia, the acting head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has said.
“A US company directly helped the Ukrainian [military] modernize… the drones that were used to strike airfields in Russian territory,” Denis Pushilin told RT in an interview published on Saturday.
He added that the UAVs in question had been fitted with a US GPS navigation system. According to Pushilin, the drones were modernized at an aviation plant in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov.
The acting head of the DPR also said the information about US involvement is now being “double-checked.” He did not name the company that was supposedly involved in the modernization efforts. Neither did he provide any other details about America’s alleged involvement. The US has yet to comment on Pushilin’s statement.
The strikes Pushilin mentioned took place in early December. At that time, Ukraine struck two strategic bomber bases in Ryazan and Saratov regions using its drones. Debris from drones shot down by air defenses killed three servicemen and resulted in minor damage to two bombers, Moscow said. The attack failed to disrupt a planned airstrike on Ukrainian military logistics launched by Russia on the same day.
In the wake of the attack, Washington insisted that it had “neither encouraged nor enabled” long-range attacks by Ukraine. The incident also came on the same day as it was reported that the US had modified HIMARS rocket launchers so Ukraine could not use them for longer-range missiles, allegedly because the White House wanted to avoid escalation with the Kremlin.
In the days after the attack, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby again stated that the US was “certainly not encouraging or enabling Ukrainian operations inside Russia,” citing the “risks of escalation.” Being “mindful” of these risks is “good” both for US interests and the Ukrainian people, he added at that time.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had previously warned the US that providing Kiev with long-range weapons to attack Russia would cross a “red line” and potentially turn Washington into a party to the conflict. The US and its allies insist they are not parties to the hostilities but continue arming Kiev.