US expected to send medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine

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WASHINGTON (TAUT) — The Biden administration is expected to announce it will send Ukraine a small number of high-tech, medium-range rocket systems, a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders are crying out for as they struggle to stall progress. forces in the Donbass region, US officials said on Tuesday.

The US plan attempts to balance a desire to help Ukraine combat fierce Russian artillery barrages while not supplying weapons that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep within Russia and trigger an escalation of the war. President Joe Biden said on Monday that the United States would not send Ukraine “rocket systems capable of hitting Russia.”

Any weapon system can fire on Russia if it is close enough to the border. The aid package due to be unveiled on Wednesday would send what the United States considers medium-range rockets – they can usually travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers), said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss aid not yet made public.

It is expected that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern region of Donbass, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and eliminate Russian positions in cities with intense fighting, such as Sievierodonetsk.

Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture Donbass before more Western weapons arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense. The city, which lies 145 kilometers south of the Russian border, sits in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of Donbass.

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US officials did not specify the cost of the aid, but it will be the 11th package approved so far and the first to benefit from the $40 billion in aid recently passed by Congress. Rocket systems would be part of the Pentagon’s withdrawal authority, which would involve removing weapons from US inventory and moving them quickly into Ukraine. Ukrainian troops would also need training on the new systems, which could take at least a week or two.

Officials said the plan was to send the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets, to Ukraine. The system can launch a medium-range rocket, which is the current plan, but is also capable of firing a longer-range missile, the Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of approximately 190 miles (300 kilometers) and is not part of the plan.

Since the start of the war in February, the United States and its allies have tried to toe a narrow line: send Ukraine the weapons needed to fight Russia, but refrain from providing aid that will inflame the Russian president. Vladimir Putin and trigger a wider conflict that could spill over to other parts of Europe.

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Over time, however, the United States and its allies have been building up weaponry in Ukraine, as the fight has shifted from Russia’s broader campaign to take the capital, Kyiv, and other areas, to closer skirmishes for small patches of land in the east and south.

To this end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with the West to send several rocket launchers to Ukraine as soon as possible to help stop Russia’s destruction of Donbas cities. The rockets have a longer range than the howitzer artillery systems that the United States supplied to Ukraine. They would allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian troops from a distance beyond the range of Russian artillery systems.

“We are fighting for Ukraine to receive all the weapons necessary to change the nature of the fighting and start moving faster and more confidently towards the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in a recent speech.

Ukraine needs multiple rocket launchers, said Philip Breedlove, a retired US Air Force general who served as NATO’s commander-in-chief from 2013 to 2016.

“These are very important capabilities that we don’t have yet. And not only do they need them, but they’ve been really vocal about wanting them,” Breedlove said. “We seriously need to supply this army so that it can do what the world asks it to do: fight a world superpower alone on the battlefield.”

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U.S. and White House officials have not commented publicly on the details of the aid package.

“We continue to consider a range of systems that have the potential to be effective on the battlefield for our Ukrainian partners. But what the president has argued is that we will not send long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine,” State Department Ned Price said Tuesday. “As the battle has changed its dynamic, we have also changed the type of security assistance we provide to them, in large part because they have asked us about the different systems that are going to be more effective in places like the Donbass.”

Russia has made gradual progress in Donbass as it attempts to take the remaining sections of the region not yet controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Putin has repeatedly warned the West against sending more firepower to Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin had an 80-minute phone call with French and German leaders on Saturday in which he warned against continued Western arms transfers.

Overall, the United States has committed about $4.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration, including about $3.9 billion since the Russian invasion. February 24.

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TAUT diplomatic writer Matthew Lee and The AU Times writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

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