Ukraine Uses Us Weapons To Strike Inside Russia, According To A Senator And A Western Official

Firefighters put out a fire on an apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, May, 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
Firefighters put out a fire on an apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, May, 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukraine has used U.S. weapons to strike inside Russia in recent days, according to a U.S. senator and a Western official familiar with the matter.

The weapons were used under recently approved guidance from President Joe Biden allowing American arms to be used to hit targets inside Russia for the limited purpose of defending Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city.

The official was not authorized to comment publicly on the sensitive matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, confirmed the strikes with U.S. weapons, but did not say how he was briefed.

Biden’s directive allows for U.S.-supplied weapons to be used to strike Russian forces that are attacking or preparing to attack. It does not change U.S. policy that directs Ukraine not to use American-provided ATACMS or long-range missiles and other munitions to strike offensively inside Russia, U.S. officials have said.

Ukrainian officials had stepped up calls on the U.S. to allow Kyiv's forces to defend themselves against attacks originating from Russian territory. Kharkiv sits just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Russian border and has come under intensified Russian attack.

In advancing in the northeast Kharkiv region, Russian forces have exploited a lengthy delay in the replenishment of U.S. military aid. In addition, Western Europe’s inadequate military production has slowed crucial deliveries to the battlefield for Ukraine.

On Tuesday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters he could not confirm that Ukraine had used U.S. weapons against targets in Russia.

“We’re just not in a position on a day-to-day basis of knowing exactly what the Ukrainians are firing at what,” Kirby said. "It’s certainly at a tactical level.”

Germany announced soon after the White House altered its policy that it was also authorizing Ukraine to hit some targets on Russian soil with the long-range weapons they are supplying to Kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Germany on Wednesday that the use of its weapons by Ukraine to strike inside Russia would mark a “dangerous step,” and he said Moscow could, in turn, provide long-range arms to others to strike Western targets.

According to a June 3 report from the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian forces struck a Russian S-300/400 air defense battery in the Belgorod region, likely with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, on June 1 or June 2. The air defense system was located roughly 60 kilometers (about 40 miles) from the current front line in the Kharkiv region and more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the city of Kharkiv, which is within the range of HIMARS, the institute reported.

Confirmation of the strikes comes as Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, visited Qatar, which, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has been a mediator in prisoner swaps and other negotiations between Russia and Ukraine since the war began.

Zelenskyy met with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. A readout from the state-run Qatar News Agency described the men as discussing ways “to stop the fighting, protect civilians, and keep all channels of communication open to resolve the crisis through dialogue and diplomatic means.”

Rounds said he agreed with Biden's decision to allow U.S. weapons to be used for strikes against Russia under limited circumstances.

“I have no problem with Ukraine using the ATACMS and so forth and all the artillery that we got to be able to take them out before they cause more harm in Ukraine,” he said.


Associated Press writers Tara Copp and Stephen Groves contributed to this report.