The United States said on Tuesday it was not encouraging Ukraine to launch strikes deep inside Russia, after several drone strikes believed to have been launched by Ukrainian forces hit Russian airbases.
“We are not encouraging and not helping Ukraine to launch attacks on Russia,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters.
“But what you have to understand is that Ukrainians live with ongoing Russian aggression every day,” he said, accusing Moscow of “weaponizing the winter” by bombing Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.
“What we are determined to do is make sure they have in their hands – with many other partners around the world – the equipment they need to defend themselves, their turf and their freedom,” Blinken added.
At least three attacks were carried out on Russian bases on Monday and Tuesday: on Engels Air Base, home to Russia’s fleet of giant strategic bombers; in Ryazan, where three service personnel were killed; and in the southern city of Kursk.
Experts believe Ukraine may have used Soviet-era drones rather than modern drones.
Asked earlier about the operations, State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to attribute the recent drone strikes to Kiev, which has not claimed responsibility.
“We are providing Ukraine with what it needs on its sovereign territory – on Ukrainian soil – to deal with the Russian aggressor,” Price said.
The State Department also declined to comment on media reports that the United States modified Himars, highly powerful and sophisticated artillery systems intended for Ukraine, to prevent them from being used to attack Russia.
US President Joe Biden has publicly said he does not encourage Ukraine to acquire long-range missiles, fearing an escalation that could lead the US to take a more direct role against Russia.
However, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, speaking with Blinken after talks with their Australian counterparts, stressed that the United States is not preventing Ukraine from developing its own long-range missiles.
“The answer is no. We certainly aren’t doing that,” he said. “We are doing nothing to prevent Ukraine from developing its capabilities.”
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