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Ukraine can fire US missiles deeper into Russia in self-defence, says Pentagon

Since the start of the invasion, the US had maintained a policy of not allowing Ukraine to use the weapons it provided to hit targets inside Russia.

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Aerial view of the US Pentagon

Ukraine’s military is allowed to use longer-range missiles provided by the US to strike targets inside Russia across more than just the front lines near Kharkiv if Kyiv is acting in self-defence, the Pentagon said.

US President Joe Biden initially loosened the restrictions on how Ukraine could use US-provided munitions to give it another option to better defend the eastern city of Kharkiv from a relentless barrage of Russian missiles.

Since the beginning of Russia’s 2022 invasion, the US had maintained a policy of not allowing Ukraine to use the weapons it provided to hit targets inside Russia for fear of further escalating the war.

Russia has been firing on Ukrainian targets from inside its border, treating its area as a “safe zone,” said Major General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

“As we see those forces conducting those types of operations from across the border, we’ve explained Ukraine can and does have the right to fire back to defend themselves,” Maj Gen Ryder told reporters on Thursday.

The Pentagon said the additional permissions are not a new policy.

“This is not about geography. It’s about common sense,” said spokesman Major Charlie Dietz. “If Russia is attacking or about to attack from its territory into Ukraine, it only makes sense to allow Ukraine to hit back against the forces that are hitting it from across the border.

“Additionally, they can use air defence systems supplied by the United States to take Russian planes out of the sky, even if those Russian planes are in Russian airspace, if they’re about to fire into Ukrainian airspace,” Maj Dietz said in a statement.

The White House also announced on Thursday that it is rushing delivery of air defence interceptor missiles to Ukraine by redirecting shipments planned for other allied nations, as Washington scrambles to counter increased Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

The US was already sending Ukraine a consistent stream of interceptors for its air defence systems, including for the Patriot missile batteries and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS.

National security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that more was urgently needed as Russia’s military has accelerated missile and drone attacks against cities and infrastructure centres ahead of this winter.

The rushed shipments are expected to include hundreds of Patriot missiles.

The Ukrainian military launched a wave of drones that struck three oil refineries inside southern Russia overnight, a security official said on Friday, as Ukraine tries to disrupt the infrastructure that supplies the Russian military.

Russia said its air defences shot down scores of drones, including half a dozen it said were launching a naval attack in the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian security official said his country’s forces also struck a drone-launching facility within Russia, but declined to say how that target was attacked.

The operations involved the armed forces and the Ukrainian Security Service, SBU, the official said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to announce the information publicly.

Russian soldiers fire an anti-aircraft gun at an undisclosed location in Ukraine
Russian soldiers fire an anti-aircraft gun at an undisclosed location in Ukraine (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP)

SBU drones struck oil refineries in the Russian locations of Afipsky, Ilsky, and Krasnodar, which supply fuel for ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the official said.

Ukrainian forces also struck a drone facility in the southern Russia town of Yeysk where Iranian-designed Shahed drones were stored and launched, the official said. A “series of explosions” was recorded there, the official said.

Russian regional authorities in the Krasnodar region said four people were injured, including oil refinery workers, as a result of drone strikes.

Despite improvements in Russia’s air defences, Ukraine has continued its campaign to strike oil infrastructure across the border, hitting multiple sites in 2024, as part of a wider effort to disrupt Russia’s military supplies.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that its air defences had downed 114 Ukrainian drones. It said that 70 drones were shot down in Crimea and the Black Sea, 43 in the Krasnodar region and one in the Volgograd region, further east.

Russian warplanes also destroyed six Ukrainian naval drones in the Black Sea early on Friday, the ministry said, responding to an incident that appeared to be one of the largest drone attacks of its type in recent months.

Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, said that Ukrainian drones also damaged a boiler room near a bus station in the city of Krasnodar, killing a worker.

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