July 19, 2024

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Moscow warns of escalation after telling Ukraine it could strike Russia

Moscow warns of escalation after telling Ukraine it could strike Russia

Image source, Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Comment on the photo, Russian forces attacked the Kharkiv region and took control of several border villages

  • author, Paul Kirby
  • Role, BBC News

Russia has accused NATO and the United States of “provoking a new level of tension” after the United States and Germany became the latest allies to allow the Ukrainian military to use Western-supplied weapons to strike targets inside Russia.

A Berlin spokesman said that Germany is convinced that Ukraine has the right to defend itself against Russia, especially from cross-border attacks on Kharkiv, its second largest city.

US officials said the US-supplied weapons could be used to counter Russian fire near the Kharkiv region, whether where Russian forces were “striking them or preparing to strike them.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the decision would help protect civilians living in villages near the Russian border.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that NATO countries, especially the United States and many European countries, “have entered a new round of escalating tension and are doing so deliberately,” in statements reported by the TASS news agency.

“They are provoking Ukraine in every possible way to continue this senseless war.”

Russian forces have made gains in the Kharkiv region in recent weeks after a surprise attack in the area near the border with Russia.

But a US official told the BBC: “Our policy is to ban the use of the Army’s tactical missile system [ATACMS] Or that long-range strikes inside Russia have not changed.”

German government spokesman Stephen Hebstreit said on Friday that Berlin is “jointly convinced” that Ukraine has the right to defend itself from the Russian attack.

“To do this, it can also use the weapons it has been supplied for this purpose in accordance with its international legal obligations, including those we have supplied to it,” he added.

Germany has not yet supplied Ukraine with powerful Taurus missiles, while the United Kingdom has provided Storm Shadow missiles, and France has delivered Sculp cruise missiles.

Russia claimed on Friday that it had pushed back Ukrainian forces up to nine kilometers (6 miles) from the border in the Kharkiv region, adding that it now controlled the hills near the village of Liptsy. Kharkiv is located just over 30 kilometers from the Russian border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated his message earlier this week that the United States will continue to do what it has done so far, “which is to adapt and adjust as necessary.”

He was speaking to reporters at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague, where NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the decision to ease restrictions on Ukraine’s use of weapons.

NATO allies have also raised questions about the possibility of deploying US-made F-16 warplanes across the Russian border.

Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said his F-16s could be used to target weapons depots in Russia, which he described as legitimate targets.

Denmark is scheduled to deliver 19 F-16s to Ukraine over the summer, and Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen explained: “This is not a carte blanche for Ukraine to use F-16s to launch arbitrary attacks on Russia.”

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Friday refused to confirm the possibility of using Danish F-16 aircraft over Russian territory. She added that the planes were very close to flying over Ukraine, but “we will not go into further details.”

The Netherlands avoided making any clear announcement about the F-16 aircraft. Foreign Minister Hanke Bruijns-Sloot merely emphasized that the Dutch government “will allow Ukraine to use weapons on Russian territory if it is in a state of complete self-defense,” in line with the United Nations Charter.

Belgian Alexander De Croo ruled out allowing Ukraine to use its F-16 jets over Russia when he met with President Zelensky earlier this week. Mr. De Croo was meeting with President Biden at the White House on Friday.

Russian officials have made clear their anger at the prospect of F-16s being used over their territory. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the F-16s would be destroyed like everything else provided by NATO, and it would not change the situation at all.