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Joe Biden partially lifts ban on Ukraine using US arms in strikes on Russian territory, US officials say

Updated on: 31 May,2024 10:16 AM IST  |  Washington
mid-day online correspondent , PTI |

"We know that a major front in the competition that we have, the adversarial relationship that we have, notably with Russia, is on the information front," Blinken said

Joe Biden partially lifts ban on Ukraine using US arms in strikes on Russian territory, US officials say

Joe Biden. Pic/AFP

Two US sources familiar with the situation said President Joe Biden has permitted Ukraine to use US weapons inside Russia for the specific goal of defending Kharkiv. The officials emphasised that the US policy, which calls on Ukraine not to deploy long-range missiles and other munitions provided by the US to launch offensive strikes inside Russia, has not changed. The officials made this request while speaking about the sensitive subject. The action is being taken in response to increased requests from Ukrainian officials to the US administration to permit their forces to protect themselves against attacks coming from Russian territory.

Politico was the first to report on Biden's decision. On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attacked Russian efforts to foment unrest in democracies through disinformation, implying that the Biden administration may soon permit Ukraine to launch an internal attack within Russia using US-supplied weaponry. Blinken met with NATO foreign ministers in Prague after more officials said that Ukraine should be able to defend itself by attacking targets in Russian territory. He declared that Moscow's use of disinformation and misinformation was "poison" and signed a counter-agreement with the Czech government. He also toured a Czech military base, where he saw armoured vehicles that Prague is sending to Kyiv to help fight Russia's invasion and received a briefing on a Czech initiative to supply Ukraine with a million rounds of ammunition by the end of the year.

"We know that a major front in the competition that we have, the adversarial relationship that we have, notably with Russia, is on the information front," Blinken said. He said the agreement with the Czechs " the 17th such accord the US has signed with partner nations " would help "to effectively deal with misinformation and disinformation, which is a poison being injected into our democracies by our adversaries". "The more we're able to do together both between our countries but also with other countries, the more effective we're going to be exposing it and dealing with it," Blinken told reporters at a signing ceremony with Czech Foreign Minister Minister Jan Lipavsky. Lipavsky agreed, noting that Czech authorities had recently exposed a major Russian-backed misinformation campaign. "We are facing confrontation between democracies and autocracies," Lipavsky said. "The Kremlin has started targeting democracies all around the world with cyber warfare, propaganda and influence operations and this danger simply cannot be underestimated any more."

At a separate NATO-related event on Thursday, Lipavsky said Ukraine needs resources to counter Russia's relentless assault. "Ukraine cannot fight against Russia with one hand tied behind its back," he said. "Ukraine must be able to fight against Russia's barbaric invasion even on Russian territory. Political resolve must be backed by credible capabilities." Norway's foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that his country believes Ukraine "has a crystal-clear right under international law to attack Russia inside Russia as part of the defence of its territory". Russia's invasion of Ukraine and support for Ukrainian attempts to repel it will be a major focus of the NATO foreign minister meetings on Thursday and Friday " the alliance's last major diplomatic gathering before a leaders' summit in Washington in July to mark the 75th anniversary of its founding. Blinken stated on Wednesday in Moldova that US policy regarding Ukraine's use of US weapons is always changing, implying that Washington might lift an unwritten ban on Ukraine using US weapons in attacks against Russian land.

Although US officials insist there is no formal ban, they have long made clear that they believe the use of American weapons to attack targets inside Russia could provoke an escalatory response from Moscow, something that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised. That position appears to be being reconsidered, and Blinken noted that it was a "hallmark" of the Biden administration's stance on Ukraine to "adapt and adjust" as needed. Blinken visited Kyiv earlier this month and heard a direct appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to use US military assistance to strike positions in Russia from where attacks on Ukraine are launched. "As the conditions have changed, as the battlefield has changed, as what Russia does has changed in terms of how it's pursuing its aggression, escalation, we've adapted and adjusted too, and I'm confident we'll continue to do that," Blinken said at a news conference in Chisinau. "At every step along the way, we've adapted and adjusted as necessary, and so that's exactly what we'll do going forward," he said.

"We're always listening, we're always learning, and we're always making determinations about what's necessary to make sure that Ukraine can effectively continue to defend itself, and we'll continue to do that." Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that Western countries should not object if Ukraine needs to strike inside Russia to defend itself. Stoltenberg reaffirmed that position on Thursday. "I believe that time has come to (re)consider some of these restrictions to enable the Ukrainians to defend themselves," he said. "We need to remember what it is. This is a war of aggression launched by choice by Moscow against Ukraine." The right to self-defence, he said, "includes also striking legitimate military targets outside Ukraine".

(With Inputs from AP)

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