Kremlin warns West over providing long-range weapons to Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian serviceman rides an APC at a frontline near the town of Bakhmut

By Dmitry Antonov and Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Thursday that Western nations supplying Ukraine with weapons to strike Russian territory will have to reckon with Russia, after President Vladimir Putin said he was considering arming the West's enemies in retaliation.

Speaking with senior editors of international news agencies in St Petersburg on Wednesday, the Russian leader said Moscow was thinking about providing advanced long-range weapons - of a similar nature to those the West is giving Ukraine - to the West's adversaries around the world.

Putin in his comments mentioned long-range missiles being supplied to Ukraine by the U.S. and Britain.

"We are thinking that if someone thinks it is possible to supply such weapons to a war zone in order to strike at our territory and create problems for us, then why do we not have the right to supply our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world where there will be strikes on sensitive facilities of those countries that are doing this to Russia?" said Putin.

"So the response could be symmetrical. We will think about this."

Putin's comments suggested that he could supply weapons to U.S. antagonists such as Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria that have periodically launched rockets and drones at U.S. troops. It was not clear, however, to whom Putin would provide weapons in Britain's case.

Asked about Putin's comments, U.S. President Joe Biden told ABC News on Thursday during D-Day commemorations in France that Ukraine was limited in firing U.S.-supplied weapons at targets inside Russia near the countries' border.

"We're not talking about giving them weapons to strike Moscow, to strike the Kremlin," he said. "Just across the border where they're receiving significant fire from conventional weapons used by the Russians to go into Ukraine to kill Ukrainians."

Biden was referring to Russian troops and artillery deployed just inside Russia supporting a Russian offensive against the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which also has been hit with glide bombs launched by Russian jets from its airspace.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told state TV he believed Putin's warning had been heard in the West where he said he believed it was already being studied.

"They need to reckon with us and our position. We won't compromise out interests," said Peskov.

When asked earlier on Thursday by reporters if the Kremlin would name countries or regions to which Russia might supply arms in this way, he said no.

"...It's a very important statement that is very transparent that the supply of weapons that will be fired at us cannot go without consequences, and those consequences are certain to come."

Washington prohibits Kyiv from striking inside Russia with ATACMS, which have a range of up to 186 miles (300 km), and other long-range U.S.-supplied weapons.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, during a visit to Kyiv on May 3, told Reuters Ukraine had a right to use the weapons provided by Britain to strike targets inside Russia, and it was up to Kyiv whether to do so.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council and a former president who has emerged as one of the Kremlin's most outspoken hawks, on Thursday elaborated on what Moscow was considering, saying that Putin's words represented "a very significant change" in Russian foreign policy.

"Let the U.S. and its allies now feel the direct use of Russian weapons by third parties. These persons or regions are intentionally not named, but they could be anyone who considers Pindostan and its comrades to be their enemies," Medvedev wrote on his official Telegram channel, using a derogatory Russian slang word for the United States.

"Regardless of their political beliefs and international recognition. Their enemy is the U.S., so they are our friends."

He spoke of what he called "sensitive facilities" belonging to the US and it allies burning after being struck with Russian missiles fired by "third parties".

"And we will rejoice at their successful strikes with our weapons against our common enemies!" said Medvedev.

(Reporting by Dmitry Antonov in Moscow and Andrew Osborn in London; Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay in Washington; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Andrew Heavens and Don Durfee)