Ukraine claims it hit missile system inside Russian territory using Western weapons

Ukrainian forces claimed Monday that they had successfully hit a Russian S-300 missile system using Western-supplied weapons inside Russian territory.

“It burns beautifully. It’s a Russian S-300. On Russian territory. The first days after permission to use Western weapons on enemy territory,” Ukrainian government minister Iryna Vereshchuk posted on Facebook alongside a picture purporting to show the strike.

This comes just days after US President Joe Biden gave Ukraine permission to carry out limited strikes using US weapons in Russian territory around Kharkiv, after several European nations had removed restrictions on how the weapons can be used.

It is unclear if the weapons used in the strike described by Vereshchuk were US-supplied.

Ukraine had for months pleaded with Washington to allow it to strike targets on Russian soil with US weapons, as Moscow launched a brutal aerial and ground assault on Kharkiv, safe in the knowledge that its troops could retreat back to Russian soil to regroup and its weapons depots could not be targeted with Western arms.

The permission granted by the US was both groundbreaking and bold, but tentative and highly conditional. Ukraine can only hit targets around Kharkiv, and the US is standing firm in not allowing Ukraine to use the most formidable munition it has been given to fire into Russia: the long-range missiles known as ATACMS that can hit targets 300 kilometers (nearly 200 miles) away.

Instead, Ukraine can only use shorter-range missiles known as GMLRS, which have a range of around 70 kilometers (around 40 miles).

For that reason, military analysts praised the decision, but tempered expectations. Franz-Stefan Gady, an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN the GMLRS cross-border strikes will allow Ukraine “to hit some Russian staging areas, command and control centers, as well as supply depots. It will not stop but complicate Russian military operations against Kharkhiv.”

Mathieu Boulegue, a consulting fellow at UK-based Chatham House, told CNN the policy change was “not a game changer, per se. It’s an add-on, a steroid, an extra booster for Ukraine to defend itself.”

While the removal of this taboo appears to mark a new chapter in the war, Russia has already experienced Ukrainian strikes with Western weapons on territory to which it lays claim.

Ukraine has frequently targeted occupied Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, using “Storm Shadow” missiles provided by the United Kingdom.

Ukraine also launched strikes on Kharkiv and Kherson in late 2022, as it sought to liberate the regions occupied by Russia in the early weeks of the war.

Then as now, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials rattled the nuclear saber in an attempt to deter Western support. Before Biden gave Kyiv the green light, Putin said the decision could lead to “serious consequences,” particularly for “small and densely populated countries.”

The US joined several other European countries, including the UK, France and Germany, in removing this particular restriction on how Ukraine can use the weapons it has been given.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised Biden’s decision to allow some strikes in Russian territory as a “step forward” that will help his forces defend the embattled Kharkiv region.

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