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Biden quietly allowed Ukraine to strike Russia with US arms but 'solely near Kharkiv,' media report

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 30, 2024 11:09 PM 3 min read
U.S. President Joe Biden during a news conference on Dec. 12, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Editor's note: The article was updated at 9:15 a.m. on May 31 with similar reports by ABC News and the Associated Press and with comments by the Pentagon.

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.

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

The U.S. and German officials have repeatedly said that they do not support or encourage Kyiv's strikes with their weapons on Russian soil, reportedly due to fears this would lead to an escalation of the war.

"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.

Ukraine can now 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 wrote, citing another U.S. official.

Despite the media reports, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters on May 30 that Washington's policy on strikes inside Russia with U.S. arms has not changed, but she did not specifically mention 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.

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.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a declaration on May 27 that supported an end to restrictions that prohibited Ukraine's use of Western-supplied weapons against military targets inside Russia.

The next day, French President Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Ukraine should be allowed to strike military bases on Russian territory from which Moscow carries out missile attacks against Ukraine.

Over 10 European countries also supported this move, with some saying that they did not set any restrictions on Ukraine's strikes with their weapons on Russian territory.

Ukraine urges allies to lift Western arms ban on hitting targets inside Russia. Will they?
Following a new Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine is increasingly raising pressure on its allies, urging them to lift restrictions on the use of Western-provided weapons against military targets inside Russia. Months before the offensive, Kyiv had publicly pledged not to use Western-made…
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