Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the West against providing Ukraine with long-range missiles, as Moscow claimed it had struck targets in Kyiv, destroying tanks and other armoured vehicles supplied by Western countries.
Putin warned that he would hit new targets if advanced rocket systems were supplied to Ukraine, adding that new arms deliveries to Kyiv are aimed at “prolonging the conflict”.
Moscow “will draw the appropriate conclusions and use our arms…. to strike at those targets which we have not yet been hitting,” the Russian leader said without specifying which targets he meant.
His remarks come days after US President Joe Biden announced the US would send “rocket systems that can strike into Russia”, but a day later announced he had decided to provide Ukraine with “more advanced rocket systems and munitions”, without mentioning the systems by name.
Ukraine has been seeking Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) such as the M270 and M142 HIMARS to hit troops and weapons stockpiles at the Russian forces’ rear.
While Kyiv has stressed it would not hit targets inside Russia, there are concerns that providing such weapons would risk drawing the US and its NATO allies into direct conflict with Moscow.
Russian officials have repeatedly warned that the US decision to supply Ukraine with advanced rocket systems could exacerbate the conflict.
Putin also insisted it would not bring on any fundamental changes on the battlefield.
Speaking to the Rossiya-1 state television channel, he said the “fuss” around Western weapon supplies to Ukraine was designed to drag out the conflict.
“We understand that this supply from the United States and some other countries is meant to make up for the losses of this military equipment,” Putin said.
“This is nothing new. It doesn’t change anything in essence.”
Russia says it destroyed donated tanks in Kyiv
Russia said on Sunday it had used long-range missiles to destroy tanks supplied to Ukraine by Eastern European countries during attacks on Kyiv.
“High-precision, long-range missiles fired by the Russian Aerospace Forces on the outskirts of Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by Eastern European countries and other armoured vehicles that were in hangars,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
A barrage of air raids shattered five weeks of eerie calm in Ukraine’s capital on Sunday, reportedly pounding railway facilities and other infrastructure.
There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine that the Russian attacks had destroyed tanks.
Nuclear plant operator Energoatom said one cruise missile buzzed the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plant, about 350km (220 miles) to the south, on its way to the capital and cited the dangers of such a near miss.
Moscow on Wednesday sharply criticised the US decision to supply similar rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine.
“We believe that the US is deliberately pouring oil on the fire. The US is obviously holding the line that it will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Earlier, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow viewed US military aid to Ukraine “extremely negatively”.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned such a move would be a “serious step towards unacceptable escalation”.