Britain is to supply long-range artillery rockets to Ukraine, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat on Sunday to bomb new targets if similar weapons from the United States were delivered to Kyiv.
The UK will send a handful of tracked M270 multiple rocket launcher systems, which can hit targets up to 50 miles away, in hopes they can disrupt concentrated Russian artillery that has been pounding towns from eastern Ukraine.
Ben Wallace, the British Defense Secretary, argued that the decision to ship the rocket launchers was justified because “as Russia’s tactics change, our support for Ukraine must also change”. The move risks further provoking an already irritated Kremlin.
Ahead of the British announcement, Putin told state television Rossiya that Russia would retaliate more if the United States delivers the Himars rocket artillery the White House promised last week.
“We will hit the targets we haven’t hit yet,” said the Russian leader, who was closely involved in operational military decisions throughout the three-plus months of the war. He did not specify what those targets were.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Russian cruise missiles hit a train depot in Kyiv’s eastern suburb of Dniprovsky. Ukraine said the strike hit a railcar repair yard; Moscow said it destroyed tanks sent by Eastern European countries to Ukraine.
It was the first time the capital had been hit in more than five weeks. One person was hospitalized and a plume of smoke rose and was visible from high points in the capital.
Five cruise missiles were launched from Tu-95 bombers, one of which was intercepted, according to the Ukrainian Air Force, in an attack which represented a change of approach on the part of the Russian forces. Kyiv was last affected on April 28.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed it was targeting an arsenal of T-72 tanks that had been delivered from Eastern European countries, suggesting it now wanted to target Western arms supplies. But Ukrainian officials said the statement was false.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, Chairman of the Board of Ukrainian Railways, said: “There are no such tanks at the factory, nor any military equipment. We only repair cars. These wagons that we need for export – these are, in particular, grain wagons.
The UK, together with the US and other Western nations, started the war promising to supply only “defensive arms” to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion. But as Russia made gains in the east and south of the country, Western countries gradually sent more deadly weapons.
London said it cooperated closely with Washington. The UK announcement comes days after the US said it would send four similar truck-mounted Himars systems. The American and British systems are supposed to be complementary. The range of both is far greater than that of any land-based weapons currently available to Ukraine.
Like the United States, the United Kingdom sought assurances from Kyiv that the M270s would not be used to strike targets in Russia. A UK defense source said the weapons will be used “to defend Ukraine, in Ukraine”. They added: “We are confident that the weapons will be used appropriately.”
Britain did not specify how many M270s it was sending, although the number was low and comparable to the US decision to send four Himars. Ukrainian troops will be trained in the use of the launchers in the UK, the Defense Ministry added, and Kyiv forces will receive the appropriate rockets “on a large scale”.
However, Putin said he believed the West’s goal was to prolong the war in Ukraine, which has now lasted more than three months, after the Russian president launched an unprovoked invasion on February 24.
“All this fuss over additional arms deliveries, in my opinion, has only one goal: to prolong the armed conflict as long as possible,” Putin added.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy company, Energoatom, also warned on Sunday that a Russian cruise missile had come dangerously close to the Pivdennukrainsk nuclear power plant in the south of the country at around 5:30 a.m., apparently heading for Kyiv.
He said the missile was “flying at a critical height” above the site and Russian forces “still don’t understand that even the smallest fragment of a missile that can hit a functioning power unit can cause a nuclear catastrophe and a radiation leak”.
Elsewhere, Great Britain The Department of Defense said that Ukrainian forces had counterattacked at Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, “probably blunting the operational momentum that Russian forces had previously gained”, but provided no assessment of whether the effort repelled the invaders.
On Saturday, Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk province, said his country’s forces had recaptured about 20% of the Donbass city, which had been under attack for days by concentrated Russian shelling and airstrikes.
Haidai repeated the claim on Sunday, adding that eight Russians had been taken prisoner and the occupiers had “lost a large number of personnel”. A humanitarian headquarters in nearby Lysychansk was hit by 30 shells overnight, the governor said.
Ukrainian forces were “successfully slowing down Russian operations” in the Donbass and carrying out “effective local counterattacks in Sievierodonetsk”, the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, said overnight.
The research group, which is monitoring the fighting closely, said Russia “may still be able to capture Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk” and it appeared “Ukrainian defenses remain strong in this pivotal theatre.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia was relying on “ill-equipped and poorly trained” separatist forces in Luhansk to carry out the cleansing of the city, a tactic it said had previously been employed by security forces. Moscow in Syria. “This approach probably indicates a desire to limit the losses suffered by Russian regular forces,” he added.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser has urged European nations to respond with “more sanctions, more weapons” to the strike on Kyiv – and appeared to criticize French President Emmanuel Macron, who said in an interview on Friday that Russia would not should not be humiliated in Ukraine. so that a diplomatic solution could possibly be found.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the president’s chief of staff, tweeted: “As someone asks not to humiliate Russia, the Kremlin is resorting to new insidious attacks. Today’s missile strikes on Kyiv have only one goal: to kill as many Ukrainians as possible.