Ukraine Can Now Use U.S.-Supplied Weapons To Strike Inside Russia

As Ukrainian’s second-largest city has been pounded by Russian missile, glide bomb and artillery strikes, officials in Kyiv have begged the U.S. to allow the use of donated long-range weapons to strike back across the border, into Russia directly. Now that is going to happen.

In a major policy shift, the Biden administration “recently” approved Ukraine’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons on Russian territory, but only near Kharkiv, two U.S. officials confirmed to The War Zone. Ukraine has long been barred by the U.S. from using weapons it has donated against targets in Russia proper.

“The President recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S.-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them,” a U.S. official told The War Zone. “Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of [Army Tactical Missile System] ATACMS or long range strikes inside of Russia has not changed.”

Fire fighters work on putting out the fire broke out after the Russian rocket attacks, which injured seven people, in the village of Mala Danilivka in Kharkiv district of Ukraine on May 30, 2024. (Photo by State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Politico was the first to report that news.

Russia is staging its forces across the border and firing from there, this includes launching airstrikes using glide bombs from Russian territory. This would presumably allow Ukraine to now fire on all these target types, taking away this safe haven for Russian forces.

Earlier in the day, the Pentagon said there was “no change” in the policy prohibiting Ukraine from using donated weapons like M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS and ATACMS short-range ballistic missiles inside Russia. Ukraine has been using both weapons to devastating effect inside its own borders.

“The security assistance that we provide Ukraine is to be used within Ukraine, and we don’t encourage attacks or enable attacks inside of Russia,” Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters, including from The War Zone Thursday afternoon. “We believe Ukraine can be effective by focusing on tactical and operational targets that directly influence the conflict within its boundaries rather than going after larger, geopolitical targets within Russia.”

“We believe that we’ve given them the capabilities and the systems to be effective on the battlefield right now,” she added.

A M142 HIMARS launches a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) munition toward a Russian position in Bakhmut. (Photo by Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

When asked about what changed since the press conference, the Pentagon deferred questions to the White House National Security Council.

The policy shift comes as several U.S. allies have announced they will allow their long-range strike weapons provided to Ukraine to be used inside Russian territory.

As we previously reported, the U.K. weeks ago said they have no qualms about Ukraine using its donated Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

Storm Shadow Missile Ukraine
The U.K. is allowing Ukraine to use its donated Storm Shadow cruise missiles inside Russia, Crown Copyright Crown Copyright

“Sweden, Finland, the Baltic countries, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Canada and others have said they have no problem with Ukraine’s using their weapons to hit Russia,” as well, Politico reported.

France, which gave Ukraine SCALP EG cruise missiles, and Germany also agreed but issued caveats.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Ukraine could “neutralize” targets in Russia “from which the missiles are fired, but not other civilian or military targets.”

Ukraine can use the weapons provided “within the framework of international law,” said German Chancellor Olaf, according to the publication. 

Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen “has announced that Ukraine will be allowed to use Danish-supplied F-16 fighter jets to strike military targets inside Russia,” Ukrainian Pravda reported.

A Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM while taxiing to take off at Monte Real Air Base in Portugal during the Real Thaw 2018 exercise. Photo by Horacio Villalobos — Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Polish Secretary of State at the Ministry of National Defense Cezary Tomczyk told Polish news outlet Radio ZET that Ukraine “can fight however they want” with the MiG-29 fighters and other weapons it provided.

“We decided to help Ukraine in the conflict, Ukraine was brutally attacked, so it has the right to defend itself as it sees fit,” said Tomczyk,” according to the Kyiv Post. Tomczyk called on other allies to lift the restrictions placed on Kyiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning that there would be “serious consequences” if western weapons were used inside Russia, hinted that he could use nuclear strikes against small European nations if NATO allowed Ukraine to attack what he called “deep in Russian territory,” The Washington Post reported. He warned that NATO officials “should be fully aware of what is at stake.”

“If Europe were to face those serious consequences, what will the United States do, considering our strategic arms parity? It is hard to tell,” he said, referring to U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. “Are they looking for a global conflict?”

Clearly all eyes will be on Moscow’s reaction to this change in policy and how effective these strikes end up being, but one thing is for certain, this is a major shift that Ukraine has long asked for finally getting the official ok.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.