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Ukraine can hit inside Russia 'anywhere': US

News Agencies | Updated on: 21 June 2024, 11:19 IST
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Washington: In a shift in stance, the United States has told Ukraine that it can use American-supplied weapons to hit Russian forces "anywhere", its forces attack from across the border, and not just the region near Kharkiv, Politico reported, citing US officials.

This subtle shift, which according to the officials is not a change in policy, comes weeks after the US quietly signaled the green light to Kyiv to strike inside Russia in retaliation to a cross-border assault on the city of Kharkiv.

During that time, the US officials stressed that the policy was limited to the Kharkiv region, among other restrictions.

Since then, the Ukrainian forces have used American weapons to strike into Russia at least once, destroying targets in the city of Belgorod, and managing to hold back the Russian assault.

On the other hand, Ukraine and other European officials have asked the US to loosen its restrictions, allowing Ukraine to strike anywhere inside Russia.

Earlier on Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told PBS that the agreement with Ukraine about firing American weapons into Russia extends to "anywhere that Russian forces are coming across the border from the Russian side to the Ukrainian side to try to take additional Ukrainian territory," as reported by Politico.

Recently, Russia has indicated that it might soon move to the northeastern city of Sumy, which is also near the Russian border. In that case, the policy would apply there as well, Sullivan added.

The US NSA emphasized that this is not about geography. It's about 'common sense', adding that, "If Russia is attacking or about to attack from its territory into Ukraine, it only makes sense to allow Ukraine to hit back against the forces that are hitting it from across the border."

Two American officials, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about the discussions, said that allowing Ukraine to hit inside Russia in response to counterfire from anywhere across the border is not a shift in policy since the Kharkiv decision was made, Politico reported.

Originally, the move was characterized only in the context of the ongoing Kharkiv assault, but that did not exclude the possibility of hitting back against other cross-border attacks, one of the officials said.

However, Sullivan's language is quite different from what US officials said in May when the new policy was detailed.

"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," Sullivan said. The policy of not allowing long-range strikes inside Russia "has not changed," the official stressed.


First published: 21 June 2024, 11:19 IST