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A top Department of Defense (DOD) official confirmed on Tuesday that American weapons provided to Ukraine have been captured by Russian forces on the battlefield. The U.S. has provided Ukraine with almost $45 billion in military aid over the past year.
According to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl, Moscow has been capturing American weapons from Ukrainian battlefields and selling them on the black market.
“Our assessment is if some of these systems have been diverted, it’s by Russians who have captured things on the battlefield, which always happens,” Kahl said.
Beginning shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Biden administration began transferring an unprecedented number of weapons to Kyiv. From January 24, 2022, to January 15, 2023, Washington has provided Ukraine with $44.3 billion in military aid, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
Kahl noted that there is “no evidence” to indicate that Kyiv had anything to do with the weapons entering the black market.
During the beginning of the war, CNN reported that Washington was lacking oversight regarding the weapons it sent to Kyiv. A source told CNN last April, “we have fidelity for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero. It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time.”
Jonas Oman, founder and CEO of Blue-Yellow, a Lithuanian-based organization that has been supplying the Ukrainian frontlines with military aid, told CBS News at the same time, “All of this stuff goes across the border, and then something happens, kind of like 30% of it reaches its final destination.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Matt Gaetz confronted Kahl about American weapons given to Ukraine ending up in the hands of neo-Nazis. Gaetz cited a 2018 Global Times article that found that American weapons were being used by the neo-Nazi militia Azov Battalion, which was absorbed into Ukraine’s National Guard. Kahl dismissed Gaetz’s question stating that the claim was “Beijing’s propaganda.”
The Azov Battalion has been seen with Western-made anti-tank weapons. According to a tweet by NEXTA in March, “A shipment of NLAW grenade launchers and instructors from #NATO countries arrived in Kharkiv. The Azov regiment was the first to learn about new weaponry.” The tweet included photos of Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi patches on their uniforms.
In July, a report was released by the American organization, the Stimson Center that said, “[The Azov Battalion’s] role in key Ukrainian theatres creates risks that arms could be diverted to Azov troops in contravention of U.S. law.”
According to Kahl, however, weapons given to Kyiv are tracked by Ukraine with scanners provided by the U.S., with the data then transferred to American officials at the embassy in Kyiv.
Despite the oversight that is in place, it is unclear how American arms have fallen into the hands of the Azov Battalion or if the Battalion is trafficking those arms to the Russians.