Ukraine allowed to use American weapons against targets in Russia

The US government has authorised Ukraine to use US-supplied weapons to attack targets on Russian territory, according to White House officials. Ukraine will only be able to strike near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and only in self-defence, they announced on Thursday night.

Russia is waging an offensive in the Kharkiv region and is threatening Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. In recent weeks Ukraine has been calling for a change in US policy, so that soldiers will be allowed to use American weapons to strike inside Russia. US president Joe Biden has now decided to allow it.

Ukraine will be allowed to use American-supplied weapons such as missiles and rocket launchers to shoot down Russian missiles on their way to Kharkiv, to attack troops massing across the border near the city, or against Russian bombers bombing Ukrainian targets.

'A new reality'

The decision marks an escalation of the conflict. Russia's nuclear capabilities had previously deterred Biden from extending the use of US weapons beyond Ukrainian territory, but the weakening of Ukrainian defences has left him no choice.

White House officials have reiterated that the use of US weapons to strike civilian infrastructure and the use of US long-range missiles to strike targets deep inside Russia are still not permitted. But even that could change as the conflict unfolds. "This is a new reality," a White House official told the New York Times.

In Europe, some leaders are calling for a similar approach. NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that "Ukraine has the right to self-defence. And that includes the right to attack legitimate military targets inside Russia."

French president Emmanuel Macron made a similar statement during a visit to Germany on Tuesday. "If we tell [Ukraine] that they do not have the right to attack the place where the missiles were fired from, we are basically saying to them: we are supplying you with weapons, but you are not allowed to defend yourselves."


Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners (c) PHOTO ANATOLII STEPANOV / AFP

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