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U.S. gives Ukraine permission to use U.S. weapons to strike inside Russia, with caveats

An Ukrainian soldier takes part in a military training with French servicemen at a military training compound at an undisclosed location in Poland, on April 4, 2024. For the last time before going into battle against the Russian army, a group of Ukrainian soldiers rush into a muddy trench in Poland, under the serious gaze of the French instructors who have been following them for several weeks. (Photo by Wojtek Radwanski / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
An Ukrainian soldier takes part in a military training with French servicemen at a military training compound at an undisclosed location in Poland, on April 4, 2024. For the last time before going into battle against the Russian army, a group of Ukrainian soldiers rush into a muddy trench in Poland, under the serious gaze of the French instructors who have been following them for several weeks. (Photo by Wojtek Radwanski / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The administration has given Ukraine permission to use certain U.S. weapons to strike inside of Russia near Kharkiv for “counter-fire purposes,” according to two U.S. officials. This is a change in policy, as the U.S. has publicly and repeatedly said it opposes the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to strike inside of Russia, even as it continues to support Ukraine in its war effort.

“The President recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S.-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them. Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS or long range strikes inside of Russia has not changed,” one U.S. official said in a written statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been calling for using U.S. weapons to attack Russia. A number of European leaders, including the secretary-general of NATO, have also called for the restrictions on Western weapons be reconsidered.

At a White House briefing on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was asked about Zelenskyy’s request, and he said there had been no change in policy.

“We’re aware of the interest that President Zelenskyy has expressed in this regard. I would tell you that there’s no change to our policy at this point. We don’t encourage or enable the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia,” he said.

Kirby added at the time: “I would note that the — that the — the Ukrainians have in the past defeated imminent air attacks, such as some of the ones that have occurred in the last few days, on their own since the war began. And we will continue to talk to them nearly every day about what they need.”

Copyright 2024 NPR

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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