Why Ukraine needs to strike targets inside Russia

Russian guided bombs killed at least three people and injured 28 in the northeastern Ukraine city of Kharkiv on Friday, May 17th, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said

Russian army continues to advance in the Northern part of Kharkiv region of Ukraine. And these gains are the biggest for Moscow since the beginning of the year.

At first glance, there is nothing to connect these two news except geography. However, there is another common point for both events. They could have been prevented.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine knew exactly where the enemy’s forces were amassing. However, Ukraine does not have long-range weapons to strike in advance. To be more precise, it does have the means, but it does not have permission from the United States, which provided these weapons to use these long-range weapons against military targets on the territory of the Russian Federation.

First of all, we are talking about ATACMS tactical missiles, which have repeatedly shown their effectiveness on the battlefield in Ukraine. An extremely successful strike on airfields near Luhansk and Berdiansk back in the autumn of 2023 significantly reduced the number of Russian air attacks using helicopters. Previously, helicopters like Ka-52 had become a nightmare for Ukrainian armored vehicles trying to break through Russian defenses in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Read also: Shift in Western strategy regarding Ukraine’s defense strategy 

Now the most effective weapon used by Moscow is gliding bombs. Since Ukraine does not have enough air defense capabilities, Russian planes can fly in Ukrainian skies with almost impunity and launch hundreds of bombs that kill not only the military but also civilians.

This situation can be countered in several ways: air defense systems (which Western partners are still reluctant to share with Kyiv), F-16 fighters (due to arrive this summer, but unlikely to be in sufficient numbers to gain a total advantage over Russian aces). But the most effective way is to destroy Russian bombers on the ground. For example, it happened recently after a strike on the Belbek airfield near Sevastopol in the temporarily occupied Crimea. At least 4 aircraft were destroyed there by a strike with US-provided ATACMS missiles (as confirmed by satellite images). The American weapons proved to be extremely effective, breaking through the Russians’ touted S-350 and S-400 air defense systems.

Read also: The UK Warns about Growing Threat of Russia’s Physical Attacks Against the West

It would be equally effective to strike at the concentrations of Russian equipment in the Belgorod region of the Russian Federation before it crosses the border and seeks to seize Ukrainian territory. However, Ukraine does not have Washington’s permission to use U.S. weapons against targets in Russia. The US and other Western limitations on Ukraine’s ability to strike military targets in Russia have created a sanctuary in Russia’s border areas from which Russian aircraft can conduct glide bomb and missile strikes against Ukrainian positions and settlements and where Russian forces and equipment can freely assemble before entering combat.  

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy commented on this fact: “I do not believe that there should be any prohibitions, because this is not about the offensive of the Ukrainian army using Western weapons on the territory of Russia. This is a defense. It’s just like the preventive sanctions that we all talked about before the full-scale invasion. This is the same thing. This is a warning.” Moreover, Zelenskyy explained, these strikes will be carried out in the “gray zone” from which the Russian authorities have evicted civilians. “They have almost no civilians on their side of the border. For obvious reasons,” the president said.

Read also: Mitt Romney: It’s in America’s interest to see Vladimir Putin get the message: “You can’t invade your neighbors”

According to ISW think-tank current US policy is severely compromising Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast. Despite this US Defense Department Spokesperson Sabrina Singh stated on May 16 that the Biden Administration has not changed its position against Ukrainian forces using US weapons to strike targets within Russia.

Ukraine still has to fight the enemy with its hands tied behind its back.

Western countries should change their policy and lift all bans on the use of weapons in Ukraine. Because it’s much easier (and cheaper) to prevent a Russian offensive than to counter it on the battlefield.

In addition, Ukraine pays for repelling each new Russian attack with the most expensive price – the lives of its soldiers and civilians.

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