Biden secretly told Ukraine they could conduct limited strikes on Russia using US weapons

Official says ‘president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use US weapons for counter-fire purposes in Kharkiv’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington DC
Thursday 30 May 2024 22:04 BST
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Related video: Ukraine weapons support: Zelenskyy wants to strike Russian territory

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US President Joe Biden secretly gave Ukraine permission to strike inside Russia’s borders using US weapons.

Mr Biden allowed the use of American weapons to strike Russia specifically and only close to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city near Ukraine’s northeastern border with its larger neighbor.

“The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use US weapons for counter-fire purposes in Kharkiv so Ukraine can hit back at Russian forces hitting them or preparing to hit them,” a US official said, according to Politico. They added that US policy on longer range strikes inside Russia “has not changed.”

The official said Ukraine requested this limited change in policy after Russia began its offensive on Kharkiv earlier this month. A second official said the US decided in the last few days to allow Ukraine to be more flexible in how it defends itself from attacks close to the border.

Ukraine will now be able to use US rockets and rocket launchers to take down Russian missiles moving toward Kharkiv, to attack troops gathering just over the border close to the city, as well as Russian bombers.

Volodymyr Zelensky and Joe Biden shake hands on December 12, 2023 in Washington, DC
Volodymyr Zelensky and Joe Biden shake hands on December 12, 2023 in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

But Ukraine cannot use US weaponry to strike civilian infrastructure or launch long-range missiles, the official said, according to Politico. It also cannot strike military targets far inside Russia’s borders.

The administration previously said this kind of change would escalate the war by further involving the US, but Ukraine’s dire situation on the battlefield prompted Biden to change course.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Biden may change his mind on the matter, saying that US policy would change as needed. John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, also did not rule out a policy change.

This comes after US allies, including the UK and France, said Ukraine should be allowed to strike inside Russia using weapons supplied by the West. Both Democrats and Republicans have also backed the move in public and behind the scenes.

A number of officials have been concerned that Ukraine has struck military targets not used in the invasion when using its drones and the US has emphasized that Ukraine may only use US weapons to strike military targets actively used in the invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have argued for a policy change since Russia started its attack on Kharkiv, saying that for weeks, Ukrainian defense of Kharkiv and the rest of the country has been stymied by their inability to strike Russian troop positions just over the border.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov pushed hard to be able to use US weapons in Russia when speaking to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday, Politico noted.

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