US President Joe Biden authorises transfer of multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine

New weaponry will include the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a senior White House official said - the system can launch multiple precision-guided missiles at targets as far as 70km (45 miles) away

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, June 01, 2022, 11:14 AM IST
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US-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) | Twitter/@noclador

The US will send Ukraine more advanced rocket systems to help it defend itself, President Biden has announced.

The medium-range high mobility artillery rocket systems are part of a new $700m tranche of security assistance for Ukraine from the US that will include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more, according to two senior administration officials. The weapons package will be formally unveiled on Wednesday.

The U.S. decision to provide the advance rocket systems tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.

In a guest essay published Tuesday evening in The New York Times, President Joe Biden confirmed that he’s decided to “provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

New weaponry will include the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a senior White House official said - although he did not specify how many of them would be supplied.

The systems can launch multiple precision-guided missiles at targets as far as 70km (45 miles) away - far further than the artillery that Ukraine currently has. They are also believed to be more accurate than their Russian equivalents.

The move comes after Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk province, said Russian forces had taken control of most of the key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk amid heavy fighting.

Gaidai reiterated calls for residents to stay in shelters after he said a Russian airstrike hit a nitric acid tank, risking the release of toxic fumes. In a post on the Telegram app he added a photograph of a large pink cloud over residential buildings.

The city’s mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, said artillery bombardments were threatening the lives of the thousands of civilians still sheltering in the ruined city, with evacuations not possible. Street fighting is under way, he said, adding: “The situation is very serious and the city is essentially being destroyed ruthlessly block by block.”

On Monday, Biden had said that the U.S. would not send Ukraine “rocket systems that can strike into Russia.” Any weapons system can shoot into Russia if it’s close enough to the border. The aid package expected to be unveiled Wednesday would send what the U.S. considers medium-range rockets — they generally can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers), the officials said.

The Ukrainians have assured U.S. officials that they will not fire rockets into Russian territory, according to the senior administration officials. One official noted that the advanced rocket systems will give Ukrainian forces greater precision in targeting Russian assets inside Ukraine.

The expectation is that Ukraine could use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.

Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense. The city, which is 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of the Russian border, is in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of the Donbas.

(with inputs from AP)

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