On Tuesday, the British Defense Ministry backed the Ukrainian claim that Ukrainian forces sunk a Russian tugboat with US-made Harpoon missiles, an incident Russia has not commented on.
Ukraine said it sank the Russian tugboat Vasiliy Bekh on Friday and released a video of what it said was the vessel being hit with two missiles. The Vasiliy Bekh was designed for rescue operations, but Ukraine claims it was transporting a missile system to Snake Island, which is located in the Black Sea and was captured by Russia early on in the war.
The British Defense Ministry assessed that Ukraine “almost certainly” targeted the Vasiliy Bekh and used US-made Harpoon missiles. The claim is still not confirmed, but the incident marks the first time Kyiv has been said to use the Western-provided anti-ship missiles.
Denmark was the first known Western country to transfer a Harpoon system to Ukraine, which the US facilitated. The US pledged to send Ukraine two more Harpoon systems to Kyiv as part of the massive $1 billion weapons package that President Biden announced last week.
Harpoon missiles are capable of hitting targets over 100 miles away, putting many Russian ships in the Black Sea in range, and significantly widening the area where Ukraine can use Western-provided arms. As the US and NATO continue to escalate military aid to Ukraine, the risk of provoking a response from Moscow grows.