Biden gives Ukraine permission to carry out limited strikes within Russia using US weapons

President Joe Biden has given permission to Ukraine to strike inside Russian territory with American munitions, though he has restricted their use so Kyiv can only hit targets over the border close to Kharkiv after Russia made significant advances around the city in the northeastern part of the country close to the Russian border, two US officials told CNN.

“The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use US supplied-weapons for counterfire purposes in Kharkiv so Ukraine can hit back at Russian forces hitting them or preparing to hit them,” one of the officials said.

The loosening of the restrictions marks a break from long-standing policy and comes amid growing international pressure from close US allies. But it is limited to the area around Kharkiv, and Ukraine has not requested permission beyond that, the official said, adding that they do not anticipate the US widening the area allowed.

Politico was first to report the news.

Kyiv made the request for Washington to change its policy in just the past few weeks as Russian forces have made their advance, the official said. Russian forces, ammunitions depots and logistical hubs can now be targeted with US-provided artillery and rockets across the border from Kharkiv in western Russia.

The administration is also standing firm in not allowing Ukraine to use the most formidable munition it has been given to fire into Russia: the long-range missiles known as ATACMS that can hit targets 200 miles, or 300 kilometers, away.

Ukraine has been allowed to use US anti-aircraft weapons to take down the imminent threat of Russian aircraft flying in both Ukrainian and Russian airspace and has done so successfully, the first official emphasized. But the prohibition has blocked Ukraine from targeting Russian aircraft that are on the ground inside Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly signaled a willingness to change the administration’s tact this week when he noted that the US could “adapt and adjust” its position.

“Another hallmark of our support for Ukraine over the last two years has been to adapt as the conditions have changed, battlefields change, as what Russia does has changed in terms of how it is pursuing its aggression escalation, we’ve adapted and adjusted too,” Blinken said on Wednesday on a visit to Moldova. “I am confident we will continue to do that.”

The previous day, key European leaders signaled they had shifted position.

Speaking at a news conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron outlined that French weapons sent to Ukraine, including long-range missiles, were permitted to target bases inside Russia.

“Ukrainian soil is being attacked from bases in Russia,” Macron said during a visit to Schloss Meseberg in Brandenburg, Germany. “So how do we explain to the Ukrainians that we’re going to have to protect these towns and basically everything we’re seeing around Kharkiv at the moment, if we tell them you are not allowed to hit the point from which the missiles are fired?”

“We think that we should allow them to neutralize the military sites from which the missiles are fired and, basically, the military sites from which Ukraine is attacked,” Macron continued.

Germany’s Scholz echoed Macron’s comments and said that Ukraine was allowed to defend itself as long as it respected the conditions given by the countries that supplied the weapons – including the United States – and international law.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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