Putin sets mission for Russian military
Ukraine should not have the ability to target Russian border regions, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, adding that this was a mission for the defense ministry in Moscow. His comments came a day after Ukrainian shelling struck near a pipeline in Bryansk Region, and amid rumors the US is preparing to give Kiev longer-range projectiles.
“Of course, the priority mission is to eliminate the very possibility of attacks, but that’s a task for the military,” Putin said during a videoconference about infrastructure work in the border regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk, as well as Crimea.
Some 3,700 residents of the border villages in Belgorod Region have been displaced by Ukrainian artillery attacks, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin told the meeting, adding that the government had set aside funding to provide them with housing and everything else they need.
Authorities in Belgorod and Bryansk registered two Ukrainian artillery strikes each on Tuesday. In Bryansk Region, one projectile fell into a field near a substation of the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline. The flow of oil has not been affected, but pipeline staff are on high alert, Transneft commented regarding the incident.
Three villages in the region of Belgorod and one in Kursk were also targeted by Ukrainian cannons and rockets on Tuesday, according to reports from the zone of combat operations. This was in addition to more than 150 rounds fired on the Donetsk People’s Republic.
The government in Kiev has repeatedly asked its Western backers for longer-range missiles, such as the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which has a range of some 300km. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US had secretly sabotaged the HIMARS rocket artillery systems delivered to Ukraine, so they cannot launch the ATACMS even if Kiev somehow manages to obtain them.
On Tuesday, however, Reuters reported that Washington was preparing to include a different missile with a range of up to 150km, still enabling Kiev’s forces to strike deep inside Russia. The Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) consists of an airplane bomb mounted on a rocket engine and can be fired from the HIMARS.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian intelligence chief Kirill Budanov threatened that “there will be problems inside Russia” until Kiev restores the borders it lays claim to. Budanov’s words follow the public comments of Alexey Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who spoke in December about the prospect of “blasts” all over Russia.
Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington that providing heavy weapons to Ukraine risks crossing Russia’s “red lines” and involving the US and NATO in the conflict directly. The US and its allies insist they are not parties to the hostilities, but continue to arm Kiev.