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US allowed Ukraine to down planes in Russian airspace since start of full-scale war, White House says

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk June 5, 2024 10:02 AM 2 min read
U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2023. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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The U.S. gave Kyiv permission at the start of Russia's full-scale invasion to down military aircraft flying in Russian territory if they pose a threat to Ukraine, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said at a press briefing on June 4 in response to a question on the use of U.S.-supplied weapons on Russian territory.

News emerged on May 31 that the White House had lifted the ban on the use of some U.S. weapons by Ukraine against Russian territory near Kharkiv and Sumy oblasts after Moscow launched a new offensive on May 10 in Kharkiv Oblast.

Speaking to the press ahead of President Joe Biden's visit to France for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Kirby said "there has been some confusion" on the topic of Ukraine's permission to use U.S.-supplied weapons to strike targets in Russia.

Kirby clarified that there has "never been a restriction on the Ukrainians shooting down hostile aircraft, even if those aircraft are not necessarily in Ukrainian airspace."

Ukraine "can shoot down Russian airplanes that pose an impending threat.  And they have. They have since the beginning of the war," Kirby said.

Kirby refused to confirm reports that Ukraine has used U.S. weapons for the first time to strike Russian territory, as the U.S. is "not in a position on a day-to-day basis of knowing exactly what the Ukrainians are firing at."

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told the press aboard Air Force One later on June 4 that Biden's decision to authorize strikes on Russian territory near Kharkiv and Sumy oblasts was "common sense."

"Russian forces are firing at Ukraine from just across the border north of Kharkiv," Kirby said.

Biden believes that "Ukraine should have the right to hit back, including with American-made weapons," and therefore "authorized the use of weapons for that specific purpose," Sullivan said.

Zelensky urges US to allow Ukraine to strike Russia with ATACMS missiles
President Volodymyr Zelensky on June 2 said the U.S. should allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles to protect lives.

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