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26 Apr, 2024 00:41

US ATACMS will help Ukraine attack Crimea – NYT

Kiev could use the systems to “put more pressure” on the peninsula, according to the newspaper
US ATACMS will help Ukraine attack Crimea – NYT

US-supplied Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, will allow Ukrainian forces to target Russia’s Crimean peninsula “more effectively,” the New York Times has reported, citing senior Pentagon officials.

Washington secretly sent Kiev an unspecified number of longer-range ATACMS last month, US officials confirmed earlier this week, after several outlets claimed that Kiev has already begun using the weapon against Russian targets far behind the frontlines.

The “goal” of supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles was to put more pressure on Crimea, “where, right now, Russia has had relatively safe haven,” the NYT wrote on Thursday, citing an unnamed US defense official.

The US delivered the ATACMS missiles, believed to have a range of up to 300 kilometers, to Ukraine as part of a $300-million arms package approved by President Joe Bidenin mid-March. On Wednesday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed the delivery, but US officials have refused to comment on the exact modification and range of the weapon.

On the morning of April 17, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said his forces had attacked an airbase in Dzhankoy, Crimea, after media reports alleged that Kiev used the missiles for the first time in the attack on the airfield about 165 kilometers (103 miles) from the frontline. The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented on the claim.

Ukraine first received mid-range ATACMS last September. The Russian military quickly began shooting them down, however, thwarting Zelensky’s plan to damage or destroy the Crimean Bridge. Earlier this month, Zelensky reiterated that he and his government “really want to destroy Russian infrastructure,” including the Crimean Bridge.

“I think the time is right, and the boss [Biden] made the decision the time is right to provide these based on where the fight is right now,” vice-chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Adm Christopher Grady, told AP on Wednesday. “I think it was a very well considered decision, and we really wrung it out.”

The delivery of long-range missiles to Kiev is “impossible to justify,” Russia’s Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said on Thursday. The move by Washington “increases the threat to the security of Crimea, including Sevastopol, the new Russian regions and other Russian cities,” he added.

Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation in 2014, six decades after the historically Russian peninsula was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in an administrative decision by Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev. In September 2022, four former Ukrainian regions – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Kherson, and Zaporozhye – were also admitted to the Russian Federation after similar referendums. 

Kiev declared the referendums a “sham” and has been pushing for its own “peace formula” under which Russia would withdraw its troops not only from the four regions but from Crimea as well before any talks can start.