Britain is donating long-range Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine to help it reclaim territory lost to Russia since its invasion began, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told parliament on Thursday. .
The missiles, which are being launched from the air, are the latest in a pipeline of military aid to the country by Britain, the United States and other NATO allies and come after the request of the Ukraine of weapons capable of targeting Russian military infrastructure and troop concentrations far behind the front lines of the war. As the country prepares to launch a counter-offensive, these demands have become more urgent.
Ukraine’s onslaught could come from the south and east of the country, where Russia holds territory. Kiev has struck military targets in occupied southern cities such as Melitopol and Berdyansk with increasing frequency in recent weeks, as part of possible counteroffensive preparations.
The new missiles could reach those towns, and they could also allow Ukraine to hit military targets in Crimea, an area even further behind Russian lines, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
“Ukraine has the right to be able to defend itself,” Wallace said. “The use of Storm Shadow will enable Ukraine to repel Russian forces based on Ukrainian sovereign territory.” Mr Wallace said he would not describe the weapon’s capabilities in detail, but said they were “not even in the same league” as some Russian weapons. The Russian Kalibr cruise missile, he said, had “a range of over 2,000 km, or about seven times” that of the Storm Shadow missile.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov said Thursday that Russia viewed the delivery of the new weapon “negatively.” He said that would “require an adequate response from our military”, but gave no details.
Britain has been at the forefront of military aid donations to Ukraine and, together with Poland and the Baltic states, has pushed other European countries provide more aid to the country. anti-tank missiles provided by Britain helped Ukraine repel a Russian attempt to seize the capital, kyiv, last spring, and in January Britain pledged to send challenger tanks to Ukraine.
In the past, announcements of arms deliveries by Britain have been followed by decisions by the United States and other countries to provide similar classes of military aid, but it was unclear whether the pattern would hold for longer range missiles.
Nor was it immediately clear that the United States supported Britain’s decision. The Biden administration has delayed the supply of longer-range weapons to Ukraine out of concern that Ukraine could use them to strike targets deep within Russia and that President Vladimir V. Putin could respond by escalating the war.
Britain has “received assurances from Ukraine that these missiles, like any other military support we have provided, will only be used to defend their sovereign territory in accordance with international law”, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said. British Minister Rishi Sunak. It was unclear whether the missiles were already in Ukraine, but the spokesman said they “had been donated”.
Ukrainian officials say lobby on Russian bases in Crimea is an important part of their strategy, given the region’s role in supporting military operations elsewhere in Ukraine. US officials said Ukraine already has the firepower it needs strike in Crimea. Military analysts say the range of the Storm Shadow missiles would at least force Russia to monitor areas it once thought were beyond the range of Ukrainian missiles.
It remains unclear whether the Storm Shadow missile will allow Ukraine to hit targets in southern Crimea, including the port city of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Southern Crimea is about 150 miles south of the front line of the conflict.
Ben Hodges, a retired lieutenant general who was the commanding general of the US Army in Europe and supports granting long-range weapons to Ukraine, said on Twitter that the Black Sea Fleet would now be under the threat. “It will give Ukraine the ability to make Crimea untenable for Russian forces,” he said.
Marc SantoraAnd Anatoly Kurmanayev contributed report.