Russia Says NATO Troops, Disguised As Mercenaries, Control Air Defenses In Ukraine

The Russian military has made the accusation that NATO troops are actually manning and directly overseeing Ukraine’s advanced anti-air defense systems which were provided by the West.

The charge comes after weeks of the Kremlin saying that French mercenaries have been positioned in the city of Kharkiv, which sits across from Belgorod – a Russian border area subject of persistent mortar and rocket attacks.

MLRS system, via Sky News

The statement was issued by a high-ranking Russian officer in a command post and was amplified in Russian state media, however wasn’t stated directly as an official defense ministry press release, but is still significant.

“Military personnel from NATO countries, under the guise of mercenaries, operate air defense systems, multiple launch rocket systems, and tactical missile systems in Ukraine, Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff and First Deputy Chief of the General Staff, said in an interview with the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper,” according to TASS.

Rudskoy said, “NATO military personnel, under the guise of mercenaries, participate in hostilities. They control air defense systems, tactical missiles and multiple launch rocket systems, and are part of assault detachments.”

While no evidence was provided for the claim, it has been well-known that Western advisers train the Ukrainians on these systems, likely in neighboring countries like Poland.

MLRS and HIMARS have played a huge and crucial role on the battlefield. In 2022 it was even being reported that these weapons were tipping the scales in Ukraine’s favor.

The MLRS stands for “Multiple-Launch Rocket System” and rapid fires several surface-to-surface missiles. It is highly mobile and must be operated by a crew of three.

One month ago, on January 17, Russia said it targeted “French mercenaries” during a long-range missile strike on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The Ukrainians at the time reported over a dozen civilian casualties, but rejected the claims of French fighters. 

Video clips like the below have widely circulated at various times over the course of the war. In the below is heard a fighter along the Ukrainian front lines speaking English with what sounds like a British accent…

The Russian defense ministry said at the time, “On the evening of 16 January, the armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out a precision strike on a temporary deployment point of foreign militants in the city of Kharkiv, the core of which were French mercenaries.”

Kremlin leaders, including President Putin, have frequently cast the war as one where the ultimate enemy is the United States, the UK, and all of NATO. Moscow has vowed to directly attack any foreign fighters or equipment found on the battlefield and will hold external nations responsible, according to repeat prior warnings.

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