US sends advanced missile systems to Ukraine as Russia tightens grip on Severodonetsk


Joe Biden has confirmed that he will send more advanced missile systems to Kyiv, a critical weapon that Ukrainian leaders are demanding as they struggle to impede Russia’s advance in the Donbass region.

High Mobility Intermediate-Range Artillery Missile Systems are part of a new $700 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine From the United States that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapons systems, tactical vehicles, parts and more, according to two senior administration officials. The weapons package will be officially revealed on Wednesday.

In the New York Times guest article published on tuesday, Biden said the Russian invasion of Ukraine would end through diplomacy, but that the United States should provide significant arms and ammunition to give Ukraine the highest leverage at the negotiating table.

“That is why I decided to provide the Ukrainians with more advanced missile systems and munitions that will enable them to strike key targets with greater accuracy on the Ukrainian battlefield,” Biden wrote.

Officials said the package also includes ammunition, anti-fire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as anti-armor weapons.

The move comes after Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, said that Russian forces had captured most of the eastern city of Severodonetsk amid heavy fighting.

Gaidai repeated calls for residents to stay in shelters after he said a Russian air strike had hit a nitric acid tank, threatening to release toxic fumes. In a post on his Telegram app, he added an image of a large pink cloud over apartment buildings.

The city’s mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, said the artillery bombardment threatens the lives of thousands of civilians still sheltering in the devastated city, with evacuations impossible. Street fighting continues, he said, adding: “The situation is very dangerous and the city is being ruthlessly destroyed block by block.”

Stryuk estimated that about 13,000 people remained in the city out of a pre-war population of about 100,000, but said it was impossible to track civilian casualties amid the round-the-clock bombing.

He said that more than 1,500 people in the city who died of various causes were buried since the war began in February.

Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to seize Donbass before more Western weapons arrive. The city, which is 90 miles (145 km) south of the Russian border, is located in an area that is the last Ukrainian government-controlled enclave in the Luhansk region of Donbass.

The US decision on missile systems attempts to strike a balance between wanting to help Ukraine fight the Russian artillery barrage with not providing weapons that would allow Ukraine to strike targets deep in Russia and escalate the war.

Biden said Monday that the United States would not send to Ukraine “missile systems that can hit Russia.” Officials said any weapons system could be fired at Russia if it was close enough to the border, but the aid package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday would send what the United States considers medium-range missiles, which can generally travel 45 miles (70 kilometers).

US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)
The US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to be sent to the battlefields of Ukraine. Photo: Toms Callinis/EPA

The Ukrainians assured US officials that they would not fire missiles into Russian soil, according to senior administration officials. In his article in the Times, Biden added: “We do not encourage Ukraine or enable it to strike outside its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”

sieverodonetsk . map

sieverodonetsk . map

The US deal is the eleventh package approved so far, and will be the first to benefit from the $40 billion in security and economic aid recently passed by Congress. The missile systems would be part of the Pentagon’s withdrawal authority, so it would involve taking weapons from US stockpiles and bringing them into Ukraine quickly. Ukrainian forces will also need training in the new systems, which could take a week or two.

Officials said the plan was to send to Ukraine the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six missiles. The system can fire a medium-range missile, which is the current plan, but is also capable of launching a long-range missile, the Army’s Tactical Missile System, which has a range of about 190 miles (300 km).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to send multiple launch missile systems. The missiles have a longer range than the howitzer artillery systems the United States has already provided. They will allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian forces from a distance beyond the range of Russian artillery.

“We are striving to provide Ukraine with all the weapons necessary to change the nature of the fighting and begin to move faster and more confidently towards the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelensky said in a recent speech.

Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West against sending more firepower into Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin had an 80-minute phone call on Saturday with the leaders of France and Germany He warned against the continuation of Western arms transfers.

With the Associated Press