'Ukraine will make its own decisions': Blinken appears to walk back US 'ban' on striking targets inside Russia

Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken

In comments that could be seen as a softening of the U.S. ban on Ukraine using American weapons to strike targets inside Russia, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken "Ukraine will have to make its own decisions" in response to criticism of the ban.

While reaffirming the ban on strikes inside Russia by U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, Blinken seemed to suggest that the "ban" is more of a suggestion than a rule.

"When it comes to authorizing and approving attacks beyond Ukrainian borders - we haven't done that, but Ukraine will have to make its own decisions, and I want to make sure that it gets the equipment it needs to defend itself effectively," Blinken said.

"The United States has united 50 countries over the past two years to ensure Ukrainian defense, and provided it with the weapons it needs to defend and repel Russian aggression," he added.

Read also: Lithuania supports fewer limits on Ukraine's use of Western arms for Russian strikes

Blinken was responding to criticism of the "ban" by Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Michael McCaul.

The Russian occupiers are setting up all their artillery and missiles right across the border with Ukraine, in particular, and then using them to attack Ukrainians, McCaul said.

"Your administration and Jake Sullivan have limited the use of weapons so that Ukraine cannot defend itself and fire back at Russia," he added.

"The White House does not allow the use of ATACAMS or HIMARS for attacks deep into Russian territory," McCaul said, asking Blinken whether the Biden administration will change the approach so that Ukraine does not have to fight with "one hand tied behind its back."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to the United States on May 21 to use American missiles and other weapons to strike targets inside Russia, he told the NYT.

 The use of Western weapons on Russia’a territory

Ukraine is asking the United States to help it identify targets on Russian territory that it could strike with its own weapons, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing its own sources on May 17.

The request was regarding strikes with Ukrainian-made weapons, but Ukraine is also asking the U.S. to drop its ban on the use of American weapons.

The U.S. is considering the Ukrainian request, the publication said.

Ukraine has probably received permission from the U.S. to use American weapons to strike targets inside Russia, Le Monde reported on May 16, analyzing statements made by Blinken during his visit to Kyiv.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron pledged on May 3 $3.74 billion in annual military aid to Ukraine "for as long as it takes," adding that London has no objection to Ukraine’s using weapons to strike Russia.

Le Monde considers Cameron and Blinken's statements "a sign of a deliberate change in the West's position" on this issue.

Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Charles Brown sidestepped the question of whether Ukraine could use American weapons to strike the Russian territory on May 20 amid the new Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast.

Read also: Ukrainian Armed Forces preemptive strike may have stopped Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast - FT

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