Ukraine Asks Backers To OK Deeper Strikes in Russia

Washington recently loosened restrictions for Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil using American arms

Ukraine’s government has urged its Western sponsors to allow local troops to strike deeper inside Russia with foreign-supplied weapons. The United States once barred such operations, but has since authorized attacks along Russia’s border.

Writing on his official Telegram channel on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky boasted that Ukrainian forces had downed a pair of Russian Kalibr missiles along with two-dozen other projectiles over the last 24 hours, but warned “Russian terror is not slowing down.”

“Therefore we must increase our pressure – by all methods and together with our partners,” he added. “We have enough determination to destroy terrorists on their territory – it is fair. And we need the same determination from our partners. We can stop Russia.”

While Zelensky mentioned no country by name, the message was presumably addressed to leaders in Washington, who still ostensibly maintain restrictions on the use of American weapons on Russian territory. Those rules have been loosened on multiple occasions in recent months, however.

In May, the White House signaled that Kiev would be permitted to hit Russian troops stationed across the border near Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast, while more recently similar attacks were authorized along the entirety of the Russo-Ukrainian border.

Though Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder insisted there was no change to US policy, claiming the May authorization was not limited to Kharkiv, unnamed officials previously told Reuters the first decision applied “only to targets inside Russia near the border with the Kharkiv region.”

Several of Kiev’s supporters have already lifted their own rules on Ukrainian strikes inside Russia, among them Canada, Poland, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. Earlier this month, Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen declared that F-16 fighter jets provided by his country could be used to hit Russian targets (once the first deliveries arrive, that is).

“Even if they are inside Russia, they are legitimate military targets because Russia attacked Ukraine. It fully complies with the rules of war,” he told journalists in Brussels.

Ukraine appears to be taking advantage of the scaled-back restrictions, reporting its first-ever kill on Russian soil using foreign military hardware earlier this month. According to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, troops neutralized a Russian S-300 air defense system at an unspecified location using an unnamed Western weapon.

The Kremlin also cast blame on Washington for a recent Ukrainian air raid on Crimea, which has been under Russian control since 2014. Russia’s military claimed the strikes used US-provided Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), and went on to say the attack was aided by “US satellite reconnaissance data” provided by “American specialists.”

US officials were quick to reject the charge, with the Pentagon stating that “Ukraine makes its own targeting decisions and conducts its own military operations.” It is unclear whether Washington imposes the same restrictions for strikes on Crimea, as it rejects Russia’s claims to the region and considers it part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Nonetheless, Moscow has threatened “consequences” for the deadly attack.

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor at Find more of his work at Consortium News and ZeroHedge.