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30 May, 2024 20:02

Biden ‘secretly’ allowing Ukraine to launch long-range strikes on Russia – Politico

The change in policy applies to a limited stretch of land near the Ukrainian border
Biden ‘secretly’ allowing Ukraine to launch long-range strikes on Russia – Politico

US President Joe Biden has given Kiev permission to use American weapons to hit targets in the part of Russia bordering Ukraine’s Kharkov Region, a US official told Politico on Thursday. 

Update: the White House later confirmed the decision in a written statement to multiple media outlets.

“The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use US weapons for counter-fire purposes in Kharkov so Ukraine can hit back at Russian forces hitting them or preparing to hit them,” the official said.

According to Politico, this decision was “secretly” communicated to Kiev some time before its official confirmation.

In practice, Biden’s direction will allow Ukrainian forces to use long-range American weapons – but not the ATACMS missiles quietly being shipped to Kiev since early April – to attack a band of Russian territory bordering Kharkov Region, where Russia recently seized dozens of towns and villages.

Ukraine had previously used these towns and villages to launch artillery, drone, and missile strikes on the same Russian territory covered by Biden’s directive. However, Russia’s push into Kharkov Region forced the Ukrainian military to abandon these staging grounds, ensuring that it could no longer strike targets in Belgorod and other Russian settlements near the border.

The US official who spoke to Politico claimed that Biden’s decision “has not changed” the US’ prohibition on strikes deep inside Russian territory. Biden has come under pressure to allow Ukraine unrestricted use of American weaponry against Russia in recent weeks, but – publicly at least – still refuses to grant this permission.

This public refusal has caused rifts within the Biden administration, and between the US and its allies. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior Pentagon officials both want Biden to approve long-range strikes on Russia, according to the New York Times and Politico, while several NATO countries including Britain, France, and Germany, have already given Ukraine permission to use their weapons as it sees fit.

In Kiev, Biden’s refusal has reportedly angered Vladimir Zelensky and his senior officials, some of whom told the Washington Post this week that they could have held back Russia’s Kharkov offensive if they had permission to conduct cross-border strikes on Russian equipment and troop formations.

Moscow has dismissed the debate over such strikes in Western capitals. “American weapons are already being used against various targets outside the combat zone,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters last week. “We proceed from the fact that American and other Western weaponry strikes targets on the territory of Russia, primarily civilian infrastructure and residential areas.”

One day before Lavrov spoke, Ukrainian forces used ATACMS missiles to kill two civilians in a strike on Crimea. The US does not consider Crimea to be Russian territory, and therefore does not forbid Ukraine from carrying out such strikes.