President Joe Biden has reportedly promised Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that the US will provide his country with a long-range missile system that his armed forces could use to attack targets in Russian-occupied territory or potentially in Russia itself.
According to NBC News, Mr Biden told Mr Zelensky that he will approve transfer of at least one MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to the Armed Forces of Ukraine at some point in the future.
The US-built missile system, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, can be fired from the M-142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers which have been in use by Ukrainian forces for some time. But unlike other missiles, the ATACMS can be used to strike targets as far away as 180 miles, which would allow Ukrainian defence forces to strike command and control and supply locations well behind Russia’s front lines.
Citing four sources, NBC reported that Mr Biden told Mr Zelensky that the US would transfer “a small number” of the longer-range missiles, even though the US does not have a large stockpile of them on hand.
Mr Zelensky and his government have been pressing American officials for the ATACMS system for months, citing the inability of the weapons in their possession to strike targets deep inside Russian-held territory within Ukraine’s borders.
Mr Biden and his aides have resisted provision of the system, which is also used by South Korea, Romania, Greece, Turkey and Poland, citing the potential for their use in attacks on Russian soil.
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon have publicly commented on the report.
ATACMS are designed for “deep attack of enemy second-echelon forces,” according to a US Army website says, and could be used to attack command and control centres, air defences and logistics sites well behind the front lines.
Mr Biden publicly assured Mr Zelensky on Thursday that US support for his war to repel Russian invaders will be maintained despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers to sending billions more in aid.
The Ukrainian president thanked him for the latest package of weaponry, including air defences, saying “it has exactly what our soldiers need now”.
Meanwhile, Ukraine carried out a missile strike on the main headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, killing one serviceman, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
Photos and video showed large plumes of smoke over the building in Sevastopol in annexed Crimea.
The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said no one was injured outside the burning headquarters, and he didn’t provide information on other casualties.
With reporting from Reuters
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