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Pentagon says 'no change' in policy banning Ukraine from striking Russia with US arms

by Chris York and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 31, 2024 9:04 AM 2 min read
U.S. Defense Department Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh speaks at the Pentagon on Aug. 15, 2023. (Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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The Pentagon on May 30 insisted there has been no change in policy after several U.S. news outlets reported the White House had secretly partially lifted the ban on Ukraine striking Russian territory with American weapons.

Citing unnamed American officials, Politico reported on May 30 that President Joe Biden's administration had given the go-ahead for Kyiv to attack targets inside Russia but "solely near the area of Kharkiv."

The report was then confirmed by other outlets, including ABC News and the Associated Press (AP).

"The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S. weapons for counter-fire purposes in Kharkiv, so Ukraine can hit back at Russian forces hitting them or preparing to hit them," an unnamed American official told Politico.

The source added that Washington's policy of allowing long-range strikes "has not changed," and Ukraine cannot use U.S. weapons to hit military targets deep inside Russia.

When asked by reporters on May 30 if there had been a shift in Pentagon policy, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said there had been "no change," without specifically mentioning attacks near Kharkiv Oblast.

"The security assistance that we provide to Ukraine is to be used within Ukraine and we don't encourage attacks or enable attacks inside of Russia," she said.

"We believe that Ukraine can be effective by focusing on tactical and operational targets that directly affect the conflict within its boundaries without going after larger geopolitical targets within Russia," she added.

Singh was then pressed by a reporter on why the policy was not changing, given Moscow was launching attacks from Russian territory into Ukraine.

"Again, this is our policy, and nothing has changed. We have always said from the beginning that the security assistance that we provide Ukraine is for use within Ukraine, and if anything changes, we will let you know," she said.

"But right now, that still remains our policy, and we believe that we've given them the capabilities and the systems to be effective on the battlefield right now," she added.

Calls for Ukraine to be allowed to strike military targets on Russian territory with Western weapons have grown after Russia launched a new offensive in Kharkiv Oblast on May 10, with 30,000 troops reportedly involved in the operation.

"We see every point of concentration of Russian troops. We know all the areas where Russian missiles and combat aircraft are launched," President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 26.

Politico had reported that Ukraine was now allowed to use American-provided arms such as rockets to shoot down Russian missiles heading toward Kharkiv, at troops massing over the Russian border, or aircraft launching bombs at Ukraine's territory.

Politico: Biden quietly allows Ukraine to strike Russia with US arms but ‘solely near Kharkiv’
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration secretly lifted the ban for Ukraine to strike Russian territory with American weapons, but “solely near the area of Kharkiv,” Politico reported on May 30, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

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