On February 7, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed that the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group, a global coalition that supplies Ukraine with heavy weapons, has openly called on Ukraine to seize territory inside Russia:
"The United States and its allies……have begun to supply heavy offensive weapons, openly calling on Ukraine to seize our territories." Shoigu said during a ministry conference call.
That is misleading. The United States and its global coalition partners in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group provide heavy weapons to Kyiv on condition that Ukraine will not use those weapons to strike Russia’s internationally recognized territory.
On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.
To support Ukraine against the aggression, the United States and its partners, mainly in NATO and the EU, created the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which includes more than 50 countries.
While Ukraine has the legal right to retaliate against Russian aggression, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group has imposed restrictions on the targets for the weapons they supply, including a ban on targeting Russian territory.
President Joe Biden wrote in a New York Times opinion piece published last May that the United States is supplying Ukraine with weapons to repel aggression, not to attack Russian territory:
“America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression. …We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”
At the same time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Newsmax that foreign-supplied weapons would be used only to drive invading forces out of Ukraine:
"I know some of the people in the United States are saying, or people in the White House are saying we might be using them to attack Russia: Look, we're not planning to attack Russia. We're not interested in the Russian Federation. We're not fighting on their territory.
"We have the war on our territory. They came to our country. We want to de-block our cities. For that purpose, we need ammo that can reach as far as 100 kilometers."
In early December 2022, Ukraine launched three drone strikes deep inside Russia, one targeting the Dyagilevo military airbase near Ryazan, a city less than 250 kilometers from Moscow. The Ukrainian drone strikes targeted military bases from which Russia had launched airstrikes on non-military targets, including Ukrainian cities, power grids and power plants.
U.S. authorities said they had nothing to do with those attacks and did not supply Ukraine with weapons that could reach as far as those drones. “We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Five partly occupied Ukrainian regions
It is not clear whether Shoigu, in claiming that the U.S. and its allies are “openly” calling on Ukraine to “seize our territories," was referring to the sections of five Ukrainian regions that Russia currently occupies.
If so, it should be noted that the international community does not recognize those occupied parts of Ukraine as Russian territory, and Kyiv’s efforts to retake those areas cannot be labeled as seizing Russian territory, but rather as liberating its own.
In February-March 2014, Russia illegally invaded and subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
On March 27, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution "Territorial Integrity of Ukraine," reaffirming the international community's commitment to Ukraine's unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. The resolution invalidated the results of the 2014 Russian referendum in Crimea that fabricated a legal basis for the occupation. One hundred countries supported the resolution, 11 voted against it and 58 abstained.
On September 30, 2022, Russia announced it had annexed areas in and around four Ukrainian regions - Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Notably, the Kremlin was never able to formalize the borders of the allegedly annexed Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, so no one could tell exactly what Russia was calling its own territory.
On October 12, 2022, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning Russia's "attempted illegal annexation" of four Ukrainian regions and demanded that Moscow's unlawful actions immediately be reversed. Of the 193 U.N. member states, 143 supported that resolution, with five voting against it and 35 abstaining.
The U.N. General Assembly resolution declared:
“[T]he unlawful actions of the Russian Federation with regard to the illegal so-called referendums held from 23 to 27 September 2022 in parts of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine that, in part, are or have been under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation, and the subsequent attempted illegal annexation of these regions, have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine.”