Russia warns US not to provide longer-range missiles to Ukraine

Russia’s foreign ministry says if the US sends Ukraine longer-range missiles, then it would become a ‘party to conflict’.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that if the United States decided to supply Kyiv with longer-range missiles, it would cross a “red line” and become “a party to the conflict” in Ukraine.

In a briefing on Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added that Russia “reserves the right to defend its territory”.

Washington has openly supplied Ukraine with advanced guided multiple launch rocket system (GMLRS) rockets, which are fired from high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) launchers and which can hit targets up to 80km (50 miles) away.

“If Washington decides to supply longer-range missiles to Kyiv, then it will be crossing a red line, and will become a direct party to the conflict,” Zakharova said.

US officials say Ukraine has promised not to use US rockets to strike Russia itself.

HIMARS launchers can also be used to fire longer-range ATACMS tactical missiles, which can have a range of up to 300km (186 miles). A senior Ukrainian official declined to say on August 19 whether Kyiv now had ATACMS.

There has been no full public explanation of an attack on August 9 that hit a Russian air base at Saky, around 200km (124 miles) from the nearest Ukrainian-controlled territory, on the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 in a move not recognised by the international community.

Ukraine has requested and received large quantities of weapons from the US and other Western allies to help it resist the Russian armed forces that were sent into Ukraine in February.

Moscow says it sent troops to prevent Ukraine from being used as a platform for Western aggression and to defend Russian speakers. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss these arguments as baseless pretexts for an imperial-style war of aggression.

Last month, the US announced $3bn in new military aid to Ukraine – the single largest US aid package for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. In total, it has committed approximately $10.6bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of US President Joe Biden’s administration in January 2021, according to the Reuters news agency.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the Biden administration is likely to announce a fresh military aid package for Ukraine in the “coming days”.

Germany to send more weapons

Meanwhile, Germany has announced it would provide Ukraine with more armoured vehicles and rocket launch systems – specifically, two Mars II multiple-rocket launch systems, 200 missiles and 50 armoured “Dingo” troop carriers.

Germany’s foreign minister is putting pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to decide soon whether to supply Ukraine with advanced tanks – which Kyiv has repeatedly asked for. But Berlin has so far rebuffed that request.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has slammed Germany’s reluctance to send tanks, saying there was “not a single rational argument on why these weapons cannot be supplied”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday that air defence systems were a priority for his country as Ukrainian forces battle amid a major counteroffensive, adding that air defence systems promised previously by Germany and the US had not yet arrived in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which began on September 6, took the Kremlin by surprise, both in terms of speed and the dynamism of advances with large pockets in Kharkiv oblast being reclaimed.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen gave no indication that EU support for Ukraine would diminish amid its continuing counteroffensive.

“More than ever, it is necessary that Ukraine gets all the military capability it needs to defend itself,” she said, without giving further details.

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