By Zachary Stieber
Russia has informed the United States that it views convoys carrying weapons to Ukrainian forces are military targets, a top Russian official said on March 12.
“We have warned the U.S. that the U.S.-orchestrated inundation of Ukraine with weapons from some countries is not just a dangerous move, but also an action that makes these convoys legitimate targets,” Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by state media.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) declined to comment.
The U.S. State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday that there had been “no signs” of Russians targeting weapons shipments.
The United States has been providing weapons to Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor missiles.
Ryabkov described such actions as “escalatory.”
“The escalatory component of Washington’s policy absolutely dominates, despite all the incantations that they are extremely responsible people and weigh every step they make,” he said.
John Kirby, the U.S. DoD’s spokesman, told reporters recently that President Joe Biden’s administration is weighing “the calculus of the need and the potential risk of providing that need” with “every piece of material and system that we’re providing” to Ukraine.
Due to the U.S. intelligence community assessing the proposed transfer of Polish fighter jets to the United States, which would then hand them over to Ukraine, as high-risk, U.S. officials rejected the plan.
But the United States has gone forward with other military aid that intelligence officials have deemed high-risk in terms of escalating the conflict, Kirby said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, asserting the military action was necessary to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” the neighboring country, which was once part of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine, the United States, and a number of other countries have said the invasion was unprovoked and shouldn’t have happened.
No countries have thus far sent troops to aid Ukraine, though the U.S. military and other NATO members have shipped arms, body armor, and other items to assist Ukrainian forces.
No discussion is possible with NATO when members are giving weapons to Ukraine, Nikolai Korbinets, another Russian official, told Interfax on Saturday.
“The weapons intended to kill Russian servicemen. No dialogue with NATO can be possible in these circumstances,” he said.
Ukrainian officials have expressed gratitude for the shipments but have repeatedly called for more intensive involvement, including the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Russia has been warned, meanwhile, that attacking any NATO members will trigger an alliance rule that stipulates an attack on one member is considered an attack on all of them.
Biden said in a speech Friday that he’s attempting to avoid “World War III” by keeping U.S. troops out of the war.
Ryabkov responded to Biden in his remarks Saturday, according to Interfax.
“We are not taking any steps, verbal, in the form of statements, whatever, which could be regarded as an escalation, there is none of this,” Ryabkov said. “Meanwhile, the U.S. top official is openly talking about the danger of a Third World War. This is an attempt to play on the nerves, an attempt to impose their own agenda on international community, to us the destructive goals of this line are evident.”