US transfers ATACMS missiles to Ukraine to 'raid Crimea more effectively'

US officials said Washington transferred ATACMS missiles with a range of 300 km to Kyiv to attack targets in the Crimean peninsula more effectively.

The US goal in transferring long-range ATACMS ballistic missiles to Ukraine is to help the country increase pressure on the Crimean peninsula, the combat center of the Russian air force and army, and is considered by Russian forces is a “relatively safe haven,” a senior US defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on April 25.

Some other US officials also said this missile model could help Kyiv attack deeper into areas controlled by Russia in Ukraine, as well as attack Moscow’s logistics lines in the southeast region.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan previously confirmed that the US transferred the 300 km range ATACMS missile to Ukraine in March, within the framework of a $300 million aid package approved by President Joe Biden the same month. .

Sullivan did not specify the quantity, but US media said Washington had transferred more than 100 long-range ATACMS shells to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army on April 23 used ATACMS missiles to attack Russian forces in the port city of Berdyansk in the southern province of Zaporizhia, according to an unnamed US official. Two other officials said Kiev also launched this type of ammunition at Dzhankoy military airport in Crimea on April 17.

According to social media accounts in Ukraine, the raid caused multiple explosions and fires at the airport. The General Directorate of Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (GUR) announced that the attack caused 4 S-400 launchers and a series of military equipment to be destroyed or severely damaged.

“It can be seen that Ukraine has effectively used the weapons they were provided,” said General Charles Q. Brown, chairman of the Chairman’s Association of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on April 25.

In September 2023, the US transferred to Ukraine a number of ATACMS missiles, but this is the Block I variant carrying cluster warheads and has a range of 165 km, only half of the long-range variant that Washington recently donated.

President Joe Biden’s administration initially refused to provide Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles due to concerns that Kiev could use this type of ammunition to attack targets deep within Russian territory, posing the risk of escalating the conflict.

However, Mr. Biden changed his opinion after witnessing the Ukrainian army running out of equipment and ammunition and gradually losing territory due to the advance of Russian forces.

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said on April 25 that the US transfer of long-range missiles to Ukraine was “unjustifiable,” accusing this action of increasing the security threat to the Crimean peninsula—newly annexed Russian regions in Ukraine and cities within the country’s territory.

Ukraine has recently increased the deployment of missiles, UAVs and suicide boats to attack Crimea, headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, to weaken Russia’s military capabilities and force its fleet to withdraw from the region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this month that Kiev “really wants to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure”, including the strategic Kerch bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with mainland Russia.