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Biden partly lifts ban on Ukraine using US arms for strikes on Russian territory

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen fire at Russian positions from a U.S.- supplied M777 howitzer in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Thursday, July 14, 2022.
FILE - Ukrainian servicemen fire at Russian positions from a U.S.- supplied M777 howitzer in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Copyright Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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The latest updates from the war in Ukraine.

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US President Joe Biden has approved Ukraine's use of American weaponry to launch strikes inside Russia only for the purpose of defending Kharkiv, according to two US officials familiar with the matter.

The decision, first reported in Politico, comes amid increased appeals from Ukrainian officials to Washington, urging permission for its forces to defend themselves against attacks originating from Russian territory.

The officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, emphasised that the US policy calling on Ukraine not to use American-provide long-range missiles and other munitions to strike inside Russia offensively remains unchanged.

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, is just 20 kilometres from the Russian border.

Russia is ramping up its troop presence in Kharkiv region

Ukraine's army chief has warned that Russia is increasing its troop concentration in the Kharkiv region, where Moscow's forces have made significant advances in a spring offensive.

Oleksandr Syrskyi said on his Facebook page on Thursday that Russia is bringing army units from other parts of Ukraine into the Kharkiv region to supplement forces in the two main focuses of fighting, the towns of Vovchansk and Lyptsi.

Syrskyi said Ukraine has also moved reserve troops into the area.

A lengthy delay in US military aid and Western Europe's inadequate military production has slowed crucial deliveries to the battlefield for Ukraine, and Russia has exploited the delays to make advances in the Kharkiv region.

Russian missiles and bombs also have pummelled Ukrainian military positions and civilian areas, including the civilian power grid.

Blinken condemns Russian disinformation efforts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday assailed Russian attempts to sow discord in democracies with misinformation after hinting the Biden administration may soon allow Ukraine to use US-supplied munitions to strike inside Russia.

In Prague for a NATO foreign ministers meeting, Blinken hit out at Moscow's use of misinformation and disinformation, calling it a "poison" and signing an agreement with the Czech government to combat it.

He also toured a Czech military base, where he saw armoured vehicles that Prague is sending to Kyiv to help fight Russia's invasion and received a briefing on a Czech initiative to supply Ukraine with a million rounds of ammunition by the end of the year.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a Czech Defence Capabilities Event in Prague, Czech Republic.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a Czech Defence Capabilities Event in Prague, Czech Republic.Petr David Josek/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

"We know that a major front in the competition that we have, the adversarial relationship that we have, notably with Russia, is on the information front," Blinken said.

Blinken made his remarks at a signing ceremony with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, who noted that Czech authorities had recently exposed a major Russian-backed misinformation campaign.

"We are facing confrontation between democracies and autocracies," Lipavsky said. "The Kremlin has started targeting democracies all around the world with cyber warfare, propaganda and influence operations and this danger simply cannot be underestimated any more."

More NATO leaders give clearance for Ukrainian attacks on Russia

Several NATO governments are publicly arguing that Ukraine should be allowed to attack Russian territory with weapons provided by Western allies, marking what could be a major shift in the bloc's policy toward the conflict.

Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that his country believes Ukraine "has a crystal-clear right under international law to attack Russia inside Russia as part of the defence of its territory."

Eide's Danish counterpart, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that his country would also accept the use of Western arms against Russian targets "within the rules of war".

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Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that Western countries should not object if Ukraine needs to strike inside Russia to defend itself.

France is also expected to announce that it will be sending military instructors to Ukrainian training centres.

On Wednesday in Moldova, Blinken said that US policy on how Ukraine deploys American weapons is constantly evolving, suggesting that Washington may rescind an unwritten prohibition on Ukraine's use of them for attacks on Russian territory.

Although US officials insist there is no formal ban, they have long made clear that they believe the use of US weapons to attack targets inside Russia could provoke an escalatory response from Moscow, something that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised.

That position appears to be being reconsidered.

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Reports say that the US is close to signing a new bilateral security deal with Ukraine in an attempt to improve their relationship, which suffered in recent months after US aid came to an effective standstill.

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