US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday his administration would send more advanced rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine, responding to urgent calls for weapons Ukrainians see as essential in efforts to block Russia’s latest advances. .
In a guest essay published in the New York Times, Biden said the United States is committed to providing Ukraine with enough arms and ammunition to fight on the battlefield and maintain a strong negotiating position. with Moscow.
“That’s why I have decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and ammunition that will allow them to strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine more accurately,” the president wrote.
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Government officials later told reporters that the United States would send the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), believed to be a medium-to-long-range system capable of firing missiles about 45 miles (70 kilometers) . Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plans.
Biden told reporters on Monday that the United States would not send Ukrainian missile systems that could reach Russia. But since the most intense fighting is currently taking place in the eastern region of Donbass, any weapon system – especially missiles – has the potential to enter Russian territory if fired close enough to the border.
The Ukrainians assured US officials that they would not fire rockets into Russian territory, according to senior administration officials. An official noted that the advanced rocket systems will give Ukrainian forces greater precision in targeting Russian assets inside Ukraine.
Biden in his New York Times essay added, “We neither encourage nor allow Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We don’t want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.
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The HIMARS is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets. The system can launch a medium-range rocket, which is the current plan, but is also capable of firing a longer-range missile, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of approximately 190 miles (300 kilometers) and is not part of the plan.
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Ukraine is expected to use the rockets in the Donbass, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and eliminate Russian positions in cities with heavy fighting, such as Sievierodonetsk.
Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture Donbass before more Western weapons arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense. The city, which lies 145 kilometers south of the Russian border, sits in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of Donbass. Russian officials claimed the majority of the city on Tuesday.
The rocket systems are expected to be included in a new $700 million aid package to be announced on Wednesday that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more, according to senior administrative officials.
This will be the 11th package approved to date and the first to benefit from the $40 billion in aid recently voted by Congress.
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The rocket systems would be part of the Pentagon’s withdrawal authority, which would involve removing weapons from US inventory and moving them quickly into Ukraine. Ukrainian troops would also need training on the new systems, which could take at least a week or two.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with the West to send several rocket launchers to Ukraine as soon as possible to help stop Russia’s destruction of Donbass cities. The rockets have a longer range than the howitzer artillery systems the United States has supplied to Ukraine and would allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian troops at a distance beyond the range of Russian artillery systems.
“We are fighting for Ukraine to receive all the weapons necessary to change the nature of the fighting and start moving faster and more confidently towards the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in a recent speech.
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Biden’s announcement signals that the United States continues to strike the balance it has maintained throughout the war: providing significant aid to Ukraine without stoking tensions with Moscow and sparking a broader conflict that will could spread to other parts of Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West against sending more firepower to Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin had an 80-minute phone call with French and German leaders on Saturday in which he warned against continued Western arms transfers.
Overall, the United States has committed about $5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration, including about $4.5 billion since the invasion of Russia. February 24.
Canada has committed nearly $2 billion in aid to Ukraine since the start of the war, including weapons, artillery and heavy equipment.
—With files from The Associated Press
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