The US is sending advanced rocket systems to Ukraine, says Biden

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President Biden confirmed Tuesday that his administration is sending advanced medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, in response to a high-level request from Ukrainian officials who say the weapons are needed to slow the advance of Russian forces in the East.

Biden said more advanced rocket and munitions systems, which can pinpoint an enemy target nearly 50 miles away, will allow Ukraine to “more accurately strike key battlefield targets.” Ukrainian officials assured that they would not use the weapons to attack targets inside Russia, a senior US official said. Such a move could risk an escalation in the conflict, which could lead to Russian retaliation against US forces or their allies.

“America’s goal is simple: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend against further aggression,” Biden said in an essay published Tuesday night in the New York Times. “We do not seek war between NATO and Russia,” her essay added.

An announcement on advanced rocket systems was expected this week as officials weighed how to help Kyiv defend itself without raising tensions with Russia.

US prepares to send advanced rocket systems to Ukraine

The United States is sending the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which will extend Ukraine’s range in the ongoing artillery war with Russia, a senior administration official said Tuesday. The United States will not provide the longer-range munitions for the system to Ukraine, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters. The advanced weapons are part of a new package of military equipment valued at $700 million.

HIMARS is a type of multiple launch rocket system. Typical rockets fired by these systems have a range of about 43 miles, according to US Army data. The Ukrainians currently use a Russian version of this system, the official said.

The Kremlin has warned that any country that provides Ukraine with advanced weaponry will face harsh repercussions. On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West has “declared total war” against Russia.

Shortly after the essay was published, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its strategic missile forces were conducting exercises in Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow. According to state media reports, the strategic missile division is Moscow’s main force responsible for “nuclear deterrence of possible aggression.” The exercises reportedly involved the Yars, a Russian intercontinental ballistic missile.

In his essay, Biden offered assurances to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States does not intend to provoke a broader conflict or use weapons of mass destruction.

“We are not encouraging or allowing Ukraine to attack beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia,” Biden wrote. He added that “we currently see no indication that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although Russia’s occasional rhetoric to shake the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and grossly irresponsible.”

Ukrainian forces are already using US-supplied M777 howitzers, which have a range of about 18 miles. Other sophisticated weapons the United States has shipped include thousands of Stinger and Javelin shoulder-mounted missiles.

The addition of the HIMARS system to Ukraine’s arsenal comes as Kyiv loses ground to Moscow in an artillery-dominated battle in Donbas, despite an avalanche of US and Western weapons.

Russian forces now control most of Severodonetsk, one of the last major Ukrainian-held areas in the eastern Luhansk region, local officials said Tuesday night. Russia has pummeled the city for weeks and capturing it would give the Kremlin an important symbolic victory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his late-night address Tuesday that Moscow’s fighting power is at its “maximum” strength in the area.

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