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Ukraine “radically changes” tactics with Western greenlight to strike Russia

Ukraine “radically changes” tactics with Western greenlight to strike Russia

Ukrainian forces have started striking Russian military targets in the Belgorod and Kursk oblasts, using Western weapons after the US and NATO allies permitted attacks on Russian territory.
Canadian instructors from the UNIFIER training mission are training Ukrainian military personnel in the UK. Photo: UKrainian General Staff via Facebook
Ukraine “radically changes” tactics with Western greenlight to strike Russia

Last week, the US, France, Germany and some other Western nations permitted Ukraine to use their weapons for strikes on Russian territory. This decision prompted Kyiv to radically change its military tactics in defending the Kharkiv Oblast, which Russia shells daily from the bordering Belgorod Oblast.

This decision follows Russia’s May 10 offensive in northern Kharkiv Oblast, which exploited delays in Western arms deliveries. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had lamented that Kremlin forces were “laughing at” and “hunting” Ukrainians. 

Now, fortunes have reversed. Ukrainian forces deploy reconnaissance drones to pinpoint military targets in Russia, then strike using Western weapons.

In early June, immediately after this permission, Ukraine launched several strikes on Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk oblasts. However, it remains unclear whether they used Western or Ukrainian weapons.

Euromaidan Press investigated how this permission to strike Russian territory with Western weapons is reshaping Ukrainian military tactics.

Russian S-300/S-400 in Belgorod Oblast

In early June, immediately after this permission, Ukraine launched several strikes on Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk oblasts. However, it remains unclear whether they used Western or Ukrainian weapons.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby stated on 4 June that he couldn’t confirm Ukraine’s use of US weapons against Russian targets.

“We’re just not in a position on a day-to-day basis of knowing exactly what the Ukrainians are firing at what,” Kirby said.

However, senator Mike Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota on the Senate Armed Services Committee, confirmed and supported these strikes. 

“I have no problem with Ukraine using the ATACMS and so forth and all the artillery that we got to be able to take them out before they cause more harm in Ukraine,” he told AP. 

According to Julian Röpcke, a military observer from Bild, Ukrainian strikes using Western weapons began on May 31, right after the ban was lifted. This marked a significant transformation in frontline dynamics within a week. 

“A game-changing turn in the Russia-Ukraine war: since US approval last Friday to use Western weapons on Russian territory, Kyiv has radically changed its military strategy,” Röpcke noted

Ukrainian drones now track targets inside Russia, guiding Western weapon strikes. So, the attack line has moved into Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk oblasts.

Röpcke highlighted Ukraine’s use of American HIMARS rockets, made in the 1990s, which Russian air defenses struggle to counter. 

In one instance, Ukraine hit an S-300/S-400 system near Mayskiy village in Belgorod Oblast, 20 km inside Russia’s border, on June 1 or 2. The strike destroyed radar systems and launchers worth up to €500 million. This Russian battery, 60 km from the frontline in northern Kharkiv Oblast and over 80 km from Kharkiv city, was well within HIMARS range.

“Despite last week’s threats of ‘unprecedented escalation’ if Western weapons were used on Russian soil, the Kremlin’s reaction has yet to materialize,” Röpcke said.

In Kharkiv, officials have noted a recent halt in Russian S-300 missile system attacks.

“Thanks to our [Western] partners allowing strikes on Russian territory, the Ukrainian forces have destroyed some of these systems,” said Oleksandr Skoryk, a Kharkiv Regional Council member, on Ukrainian TV.

However, he pointed out that Russian forces continue to attack Kharkiv using other weapons, including guided aerial bombs.

Russian convoy in Kursk Oblast

Ukrainian publication Defense Express also noted the change in Ukrainian military tactics near the Russian border. They analyzed a video of a strike on an 18-vehicle Russian convoy in the Kursk Oblast in early June.

“A reconnaissance UAV first spots the target, then kamikaze drones strike, following the classic tactic of hitting the convoy’s front and rear vehicles first,” Defense Express reported

Despite the convoy being in an open field rather than a narrow road, the tactic proved effective. Russian forces scattered unsuccessfully and were subsequently eliminated.

While the video only shows combat drones, some military observers suggest that artillery, potentially Western-supplied, may have also played a role. The influx of US weapons to the Kharkiv front is providing Ukraine with greater tactical flexibility and better conditions for strikes into Russian territory.

Notably, the Russians moved in formation just 2.5 km from Ukraine’s border, suggesting a misplaced sense of invulnerability. But with the ban on using Western weapons in Russia now lifted, this perception has drastically changed.

Russian supply base in Shebekino

The Institute of the Study of War’s (ISW) report of 2 June notes another attack by Ukrainian troops on Russia’s Shebekino in the Belgorod Oblast, roughly five kilometers from the border. The strike killed Igor Nechiporenko, the Deputy Head of Korochansky District, and injured several district and settlement officials.

The open-source X account @(((Tendar))), which posts updates about the war in Ukraine, claims that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian supply base in Shebekino’s industrial district. To support this, they provided photos and videos of the aftermath.

A Russian supply base in Shebekino, Belgorod Oblast, Russia. Photo: Tendar via X/Twitter

“In the debris field, parts of missiles can be seen. Russian propaganda initially claimed that a civilian market was hit, but the location is neither civilian nor the debris seen on the pictures,” reads the post. 

According to Russian milbloggers, Ukrainians attacked Shebekino using MLRS – an American armored, self-propelled multiple launch rocket system. However, as of this report, Ukrainian officials have not commented on these strikes, and ISW analysts were unable to verify this claim.

Strategic strikes authorized

On 31 May, President Joe Biden authorized Ukraine to use US weapons for limited strikes inside Russia to defend Kharkiv, which endures daily shelling from bordering Belgorod. It was clear this permission excluded long-range ATACMS missiles, a point Biden directly confirmed on 6 June.

“They’re authorized to be used in proximity to the border when they’re being used on the other side of the border to attack specific targets in Ukraine,” Biden told ABC of US weapons. “We’re not authorizing strikes 200 miles into Russia and we’re not authorizing strikes on Moscow, on the Kremlin.”

Following the US policy shift, Germany also permitted Ukraine to hit specific Russian targets with German-supplied weapons. Earlier, France, Britain, Poland had done the same, although Belgium and Italy expressed opposition. Euromaidan Press detailed this previously.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that such actions would be a “dangerous step,” threatening to arm others for strikes on Western targets.

Likely, the desire to avoid “escalation” is why the US excluded long-range weapons like ATACMS from its strike permission. These missiles, with a 300 km range, could target military bases and airfields within Russia.

These limitations restrict Ukraine to focusing on targets near its border. Nevertheless, this marks a significant policy change by Kyiv’s key allies.

***

Ukraine’s evolving military strategy, bolstered by Western permission to strike Russian targets near the border, is shifting the frontline dynamics. By bringing the fight to Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk oblasts, Ukrainian forces can disrupt Russian supply lines, neutralize key assets, and alleviate pressure on the heavily shelled Kharkiv Oblast, potentially reshaping the war.

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