On May 22, veteran Russian far-right columnist Dmitry Popov claimed that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan ordered Ukraine to strike Crimea. Sullivan gave that order during his May 21 interview with CNN, Popov wrote in a Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper piece published on May 22.
Moskovsky Komsomolets is one of Russia’s oldest political newspapers, with some 90 Russian language editions across the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in Canada, Germany, Egypt, Israel and Turkey. The paper claims a total monthly circulation of more than 30 million print copies and online visits ranging from 40 million to 80 million.
Floating classic disinformation about Sullivan’s interview, Popov wrote:
“U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan ordered Ukraine to hit Crimea: ‘Crimea is Ukraine. We have not placed limitations on Ukraine being able to strike on its territory’. It looks, of course, like reasoning, but in fact, it is an order.”
That is false.
Sullivan told CNN that the United States is supplying weapons to Ukraine with the restriction that they are not to be used to strike Russian territory. However, he said that restriction does not apply to Crimea, the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula that Russia has occupied since February 2014:
“We have not placed limitations on Ukraine being able to strike on its territory within its internationally recognized borders. What we have said is that we will not enable Ukraine with U.S. systems, Western systems, to attack Russia. And we believe Crimea is Ukraine.”
Since illegally annexing Crimea in February 2014, Russia has built new military bases and reopened old Soviet-era bases on the peninsula. Satellite imagery showed that Russia has been actively using Crimean airbases to bombard Ukrainian cities.
In August 2022, Ukraine carried out a series of strikes on Russian military installations in Crimea. Strikes on the Saki airbase on August 9 “destroyed at least seven military aircraft, severely damaged the base, and killed at least one person.” On August 16, ammunition depots in Maiske and the airfield in Gvardeyskoe were hit.
Following the Saki airbase attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – its liberation.”
On August 16, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the Voice of America that because of U.S. restrictions, Ukraine would not strike Russian territory using American weapons, but that those restrictions did not apply to occupied Crimea:
“But if we are talking today about the de-occupation of temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine where the enemy is, then, correspondingly, we have no such restrictions.”
The United States has previously stated it has no objections to Ukrainian strikes on Russian military targets in Crimea.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated that position during a September 28, 2022 briefing:
“We have been clear when it comes to certain longer-range systems with our Ukrainian partners that these systems are for use on sovereign Ukrainian territory. … Crimea is Ukraine. … We don’t select targets for our Ukrainian partners. … The targets they select are the targets they select.”
On May 22, two anti-Kremlin military formations - the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) and the Freedom of Russia Legion - entered the Belgorod region of Russia from the territory of Ukraine. The fighting continued for two days. Russia has accused Ukraine of organizing the invasion, but Kyiv denies involvement in any hostilities on Russian soil.
On May 22, Moskovsky Komsomolets published an op-ed by a retired Russian colonel, Anatoly Matviychuk claiming, without evidence, that the militia groups which entered the Belgorod Region "may be commanded by 'shadow' NATO instructors."
On May 24, White House spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. is studying reports that American military equipment may have been used in Belgorod against the Russian army. Washington does not support the use of American-made equipment for attacks on Russian territory, Kirby said.