Russian envoy claims secret US deliveries of long-range munitions could spark direct conflict between NATO and Russia.
Russia has lashed out at the United States over its decision to send long-range missiles to Ukraine for the first time, saying the move increases the risks of a direct conflict between NATO and Moscow.
Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed that the Ukrainian army used US-supplied ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) missiles for the first time this week and hit two Russian military airfields.
Western supporters of Ukraine have been reluctant to supply long-range munitions since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion in February last year, fearing that their use against targets inside Russia would escalate the conflict.
But Ukraine has repeatedly maintained that it needs long-range missiles and other more powerful equipment, such as fighter jets, to defend itself against attacks launched from military installations inside Russia.
GPS-guided missiles used this week destroyed nine military helicopters at Russian bases in the east of the country, Ukrainian officials said.
Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, threatened Washington on Wednesday over what he described as a secret arms delivery.
“The consequences of this step, deliberately hidden from public opinion, will be of the greatest severity,” Antonov declared on Telegram. “Washington systematically follows a policy of total curtailment of bilateral relations. “The United States continues to push for direct conflict between NATO and Russia.”
Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday confirmed the use of ATACMS, stating that the weapons systems have “proven their effectiveness.”
“Today, a special thank you to the United States. Our agreements with President Biden are being fulfilled,” he said. “They have worked with great precision. ATACMS have proven their effectiveness,” Zelensky declared in his evening video address.
The White House also officially acknowledged the delivery of the missiles. “We believe these ATACMS will significantly boost Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities without jeopardizing our (US) military readiness,” stated National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.
Ukrainian Special Operations Forces stated that they carried out the night attack and hit targets in Berdyansk and Luhansk.
Russia suffered the loss of an air defense system, other equipment and dozens of soldiers, he said, adding that some people were also wounded.
“The ammunition depot in Berdyansk detonated until 4 in the morning. The detonation in Luhansk continued until 11 a.m.,” the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces said in a statement.
“The enemy’s troop losses amount to dozens of dead and wounded. “Bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble.”
ATACMS are long-range missiles guided by a specialized GPS designed to precisely hit targets, capable of carrying cluster munitions to deliver hundreds of bomblets instead of a single warhead.
According to the Associated Press, the variant provided to Ukraine has a range less than the maximum it is capable of amid fears about its use in Russian territories.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have destroyed 28 Ukrainian drone attacks on its western territories. Ukrainian forces launched drones over the Russian regions of Belgorod and Kursk and the Black Sea, it said in a statement.
Two civilians were killed and four others injured after an apartment block was bombed in an attack blamed on each other by the Russian and Ukrainian armies.
Yuriy Malashko, governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, said eight apartment buildings were damaged in what he called a Russian missile attack.
“Search and rescue operations are ongoing at the site,” said Anatoliy Kurtiev, secretary of the Zaporizhzhia city council, on Telegram.