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17 Oct, 2023 17:26

Zelensky reveals secret US long-range missile delivery

Kiev thanked Washington after claiming to have used the missiles against Russia
Zelensky reveals secret US long-range missile delivery

Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky revealed on Tuesday that Ukraine has used US-supplied long-range ATACMS missiles in its conflict with Russia. 

Earlier in the day the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Washington had “secretly” supplied Kiev with the weapons.  

“Today I am especially grateful to the United States. Our agreements with President [Joe] Biden are being implemented. And they are being implemented very accurately – ATACMS have proven themselves,” Zelensky said in a video message.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military issued a statement claiming to have “made well-aimed strikes on enemy airfields and helicopters,” in the Lugansk and Zaporozhye regions.

It was the first time Ukraine has used the US-supplied Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), according to the Wall Street Journal. A “small number” of the missiles were “secretly sent” to Ukraine in recent days, the outlet reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

ATACMS projectiles have a range of up to 190 miles (305km), but the models supplied to Kiev have a range of about 100 miles (160km), the Journal reported. There was widespread speculation in US media in late September that President Joe Biden’s administration would send Kiev some ATACMS armed with cluster warheads, but this was never officially announced.

The missiles are launched from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, which the US provided to Kiev last year. Last December, the Journal reported that the US had secretly modified those HIMARS launchers to disable the use of ATACMS. Washington has previously hesitated to provide Kiev with weapons that could strike Russian territory, according to anonymous sources speaking to Western media.

The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed or denied the deployment of ATACMS by Ukraine. Senior officials in the Zaporozhye region, however, said that the Ukrainians had used both cluster-armed ATACMS and Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) munitions to attack Berdyansk.

Dmitry Rogozin, former head of Roscosmos and current senator from Zaporozhye, even identified the exact model of the ATACMS, which used the M74 cluster submunitions.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West that sending weapons to Ukraine raised the risk of direct confrontation. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month that “there was no weapon that could change the balance of power on the battlefield.”