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Pressure mounts on US over restriction for Ukraine to hit Russia with US weapons

Facing a Russian cross-border offensive with attacks originating in Russia, Ukraine urges US to lift restrictions and allow targeting of Russian forces inside Russia with American arms.
pressure mounts us over restriction ukraine hit russia weapons south facade white house washington dc 2007 illustrative
South facade of the White House, Washington DC, in 2007. Illustrative image: Wikimedia Commons
Pressure mounts on US over restriction for Ukraine to hit Russia with US weapons

Ukraine has intensified its appeals to the Biden administration to lift the ban on using US-provided weapons to strike targets inside Russia. As Russia has launched a new offensive in Kharkiv Oblast from areas along the border and plans to re-invade Sumy Oblast, Kyiv wants the option to hit Russian forces stationed there with American arms like the HIMARS rocket systems, Voice of America reports.

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandra Ustinova, who recently visited Washington, said Russia is taking advantage of the current restrictions.

Realizing that we do not have the right to use, for instance, HIMARS on the territory of Russia, the Russians display all their equipment along the border and use it to destroy Kharkiv Oblast,” she told Voice of America.

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has sent a letter to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, asking that Ukraine be allowed to use American weapons on strategic targets in Russian territory.

“It is essential the Biden Administration allows Ukraine’s military leaders an ability to conduct a full spectrum of operations necessary to respond to Russia’s unprovoked attack on their sovereign land,” the letter stated.

However, after the 22nd Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting on 20 May, Austin indicated there’s no change in policy, saying he expects Ukrainians to use the provided weapons within Ukrainian territory:

“In my view, their focus ought to be on the close fight and making sure that they’re servicing those targets that will enable success in the close fight,” he said.

Austin also said “the aerial dynamic is a little bit different,” when asked whether Ukraine can use US air defenses to hit bombers that drop glide bombs on Kharkiv Oblast from Russia.

Former US officials like ex-ambassadors to Ukraine John Herbst and Steven Pifer agree Ukraine should be able to strike at Russian troops and aircraft inside Russia supporting the offensive.

“If Ukraine could strike at the Russian troops just across the border in Russia… Russia would have much greater logistical problems launching this current offensive,” Herbst told VOA.

The Pentagon says for now the policy of restricting use of Western arms to Ukrainian territory remains unchanged, but conversations will continue with Ukraine and allies on the issue.

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