Ukraine launches strikes on Russian soil with American weapons Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine may have realized the first benefits of being allowed to strike Russian territory with Western weapons last week.

On May 26 and 27, France and Germany announced that they were allowing Ukraine to use their weapons against targets on Russian soil, following Russia’s new offensive against Kharkiv on May 10.

American sources told media on May 30 that the United States was allowing Ukraine to use its weapons “for counter-fire purposes in Kharkiv.”

This suggested that Ukraine was only allowed to retaliate against a position from which incoming fire was coming, but not to use its intelligence to preemptively target weapons systems and troop concentrations.

“This US ambiguity misses an opportunity to dissuade Russia from preparing offensive operations elsewhere, across the border in northern Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War said. a think tank based in Washington.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported troop concentrations north of the Ukrainian city of Sumy last week.

Ukraine’s first declared strike on Russian soil with Western weapons last Friday may be based on a misunderstanding of these restrictions.

“Ukrainian Defense Forces attacked the Kerch ferry with ATACMS [US Army Tactical] missiles, which were actively used by the enemy to secure its troop grouping in temporarily occupied Crimea,” the Ukrainian General Staff announced.

(Al Jazeera)

The Kerch ferry crossing is on the Russian side of the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai region – far from Kharkiv, which borders Russia’s Belgorod region.

Ukraine claimed it had “significantly damaged two ferries carrying rail and automobile transport” and disrupted military logistics.

The United States also said it does not allow Ukraine to use its 300 km (186 mile) range ATACMS in Russia – only on the occupied territories, mainly Crimea, which extends through locations up to 300 km (186 km) from the Ukrainian front lines.

The next Ukrainian strike on Russian soil with an American weapon appears to have taken place in the designated area.

Germany’s ambassador to the United Kingdom expressed restrictions similar to those of the United States, saying Ukraine could “defend itself” against attacks on the Kharkiv region from bordering Russian territory.

The United Kingdom and France, which were the first to lift restrictions on the use of weapons, have not publicly announced such restrictions. Germany and the United States have generally been more conservative, and Germany has made it a point never to overtake the United States in military aid.

Over the weekend, Ukraine struck a Russian S-300 or S-400 air defense complex in Belgorod using High Mobility Military Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Geotagged images showed two destroyed launchers and a damaged command post.

With the topic of geographic restrictions out of the way, Ukraine’s allies began to clearly express their positions on the use of F-16s, which they are expected to begin delivering this summer.

(Al Jazeera)

Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said there would be no restrictions on the use of the F-16 fighter jets it is giving to Ukraine to strike targets in Russia.

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren sent a similar message on June 3.

“Once we hand it over to Ukraine, it will be up to them to use,” she told Politico.

The Netherlands has promised 24 F-16s to Ukraine by the fall. Denmark must deliver its planes this summer.

These positions stand in stark contrast to the position of Belgium, whose Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said Ukraine cannot use Belgian F-16s or other weapons to target Russia.

Belgium is a cautious ally of Ukraine, in part to protect its diamond trade, Jens Bastian, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told Al Jazeera.

“We are seeing more and more cases where this decline in maturity results in open and bitter conflict between EU states,” he said.

“Only in the 12th sanctions package [in December 2023] have we been able to resolve the major problem of revenues from the diamond trade, which Belgium was able to exclude from previous sanctions packages.

Russia is the world’s largest diamond producer, producing 42 million carats in 2022. Belgium is home to the world’s largest diamond market.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the lifting of geographic restrictions by reaffirming that Moscow did not rule out the use of nuclear force.

“We have a nuclear doctrine. Look what it says. If someone’s actions threaten our autonomy and territorial integrity, we consider it possible for us to use all means at our disposal,” he told editors of Western media outlets on Wednesday. .

US national security spokesman John Kirby appeared to downplay the significance of the change, saying on Tuesday that Ukraine had always had the ability to shoot down Russian planes in Russian airspace, and that she had done it several times.

Problems on the ground

Ukrainian commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskii announced the sending of reinforcements to the Kharkiv front.

Khortytsia group spokesman Nazar Volochyn estimated that 50 to 60 Russian soldiers were killed every day at Chasiv Yar, and twice as many were wounded. He did not offer an estimate of Ukrainian losses and Al Jazeera cannot verify the figures put forward by either side.

Nevertheless, Syrskyii said, “these forces are not sufficient now to provide a large-scale assault and a breakthrough in our defense.”

On Monday, Ukraine’s Military Media Center said about 8,790 Russian troops had been killed or wounded over the previous week, the equivalent of 18 battalions. The military also estimated that 103 tanks, 177 armored fighting vehicles and 280 artillery systems were destroyed.

Ukraine has long asserted that Russia enjoys a large artillery advantage, reaching 10:1 in places.

A Russian military journalist said Tuesday that Ukraine enjoys a 3-4:1 advantage in first-person view (FPV) drones, which are short-range drones used to identify enemy positions. He said that Ukrainian drones “have become for several months the main factor of quite effective deterrence of our offensive actions.”

Earlier this year, Ukraine announced that it would build one million FPV drones on its soil. In recent weeks, it has been reported that more than 3,000 to 5,000 Russian FPV drones have been shot down per week.

(Al Jazeera)

This dexterity seemed this week to extend to direct drone-to-drone combat.

Ukrainian army spokesman Dmytro Pletenchuk said a Ukrainian drone had downed two Russian drones, a Lancet loitering munition and an Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone, for the first time in this war.

“This is a new page in the history of small air combat in this war,” he said.

Ukraine has also continued to target Russian assets with its domestically produced long-range drones, the use of which is unrestricted.

A week ago, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) announced that it had destroyed a Nebo long-range radar system near Armyansk in Crimea, which would have swept a 380 km (236 mile) section of the southern front line . On the same day, his command staff said that drones had managed to strike an oil depot in Krasnodar Krai.

Russia also targeted Ukraine’s power infrastructure in a massive strike on Saturday that included 47 drones and 53 missiles. Ukraine’s air force said it had shot down almost all the drones and 35 missiles, but energy operators said two hydroelectric plants and two thermal power plants were seriously damaged.

(Al Jazeera)

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