Ukraine launches air strikes within Russia using US weapons

5 June 2024, 17:35 | Updated: 5 June 2024, 17:54

Ukrainian forces launch a rocket on a Russian position
Ukrainian forces launch a rocket on a Russian position. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Ukraine has used American weapons to strike inside Russia with the approval of the US government in recent days.

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The weapons were used under guidance from President Joe Biden that allow American weapons to be used to strike inside Russia to defending Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city - which has been under threat in recent weeks.

The guidance allows Ukraine to use American weaponry to strike Russian forces that are attacking or preparing to attack - ie in a defensive sense, according to the Associated Press, citing a Western official.

The agreement does not allow Ukraine to strike within Russia in an offensive sense.

The use of US weapons inside Russia could be seen by the Kremlin as an act of NATO aggression.

Read more: Grant Shapps says his ‘money’s still on Ukraine’ to defeat Russia, as he blames US funding delays for Kharkiv setback

Read more: Russia 'amasses more than half a million troops on front line,' with outlook 'bleak' for Ukraine

Kharkiv has been under fire in recent weeks
Kharkiv has been under fire in recent weeks. Picture: Alamy

But a spokesperson for the US government said that Ukraine has been able to take this kind of action since the start of the Russian invasion.

National security spokesman John Kirby said Ukraine "can shoot down Russian aeroplanes that pose an impending threat".

He added: "And they have. They have since the beginning of the war."

Mr Kirby said he could not confirm or deny whether Ukraine had recently used these powers for the first time.

He said: "We're just not in a position on a day-to-day basis of knowing exactly what the Ukrainians are firing at what.

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon on Russia

"It's certainly at a tactical level. So, I can't confirm that. I can tell you that they understand the guidance that they've been given."

According to a June 3 report from the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian forces struck a Russian S-300/400 air defence battery in Belgorod Oblast, likely with the high mobility artillery rocket system, or HIMARS, on June 1 or June 2.

The air defence system was located roughly about 40 miles from the current front line in northern Kharkiv Oblast and more than 50 miles from the city of Kharkiv, which is within the range of HIMARS, the institute reported.

Kharkiv, in the north-east of the country, is around 12 miles from the border with Russia.

Russian forces have been advancing towards the city in recent weeks, taking several villages and small towns and forcing people to evacuate their homes.

Ukrainian troops have been putting up a firm defence. The country's military leaders have claimed that Russia has sometimes lost over 1,000 troops a day, although these figures are not verified independently.

Communal workers clean rubble littering the street outside a damaged building in Kharkiv
Communal workers clean rubble littering the street outside a damaged building in Kharkiv. Picture: Getty

British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said in May that he still backs Ukraine to defeat Russia.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "We're working very actively with our Ukrainian friends on how to plan and better defend around Kharkiv, their second biggest city, and I have to say that overall our brave Ukrainian friends - my money is on them.

"They've shown [their strength] time and again, they've defied all expectations and as President Zelenskyy has said to me, they wouldn't be in this battle now, if it hadn't been for British assistance right from the outset."

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari speaks to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps | 14/05

Mr Shapps also warned that delays to a US funding package had damaged Kyiv's defence efforts.

In April, members of the US Congress finally agreed to send $61 billion (£49 billion) in funding for Ukraine, after months of delays and disputes.

Mr Shapps said the delays had "left Ukraine exposed" to Russian attacks.