As Russian forces threaten to encircle troops in Donbas, Ukraine has asked the US for multiple-launch rockets.
The United States will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach Russia, President Joe Biden said on Monday.
The US president’s comments followed reports that the Biden administration was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems to Kyiv for its fight against Russia.
“We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems” that can reach Russia, Biden told reporters after arriving back at the White House on Monday, according to the Reuters news service.
Ukrainian officials have sought a longer-range system called the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, that can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of miles away. It was not clear which system Biden was referring to in his remarks.
CNN and The Washington Post reported on Friday the Biden administration was leaning towards sending the MLRS and another system, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, as part of a larger military aid package to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government has urged the West to provide it with more longer-range weapons in order to turn the tide in the war, now in its fourth month. US officials had said such weapons systems are actively being considered.
The US has provided thousands of portable Stinger anti-aircraft and Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukrainian forces as well as advanced drones and field artillery.
But Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov last week cautioned Western powers against supplying Ukraine with weapons capable of hitting Russian territory, warning such a move would be a “serious step towards unacceptable escalation”.
Ukraine’s foreign minister has said the urgency of his country’s need for bigger weapons can be summed up in two abbreviations: MLRS — multiple launch rocket systems, and ASAP — as soon as possible.
Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on May 25 the situation in the eastern Donbas region was “extremely bad”. The rocket systems could help Ukrainian forces try to recapture places such as the southern city of Kherson from Russian occupiers who invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Speaking on the side lines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Kuleba said he had about 10 bilateral meetings with other leaders whose countries possess such systems, The Associated Press reported.
“The response I get is, ‘Have the Americans given it to you already?’” he said, alluding to US leadership. “So this is the burden of being a leader. Everyone is looking at you. So Washington has to keep the promise and provide us with multiple launch rocket systems as soon as possible. Others will follow.”
“If we do not get an MLRS ASAP, the situation in Donbas will get even worse than it is now,” he added. “Every day of someone sitting in Washington, Berlin, Paris and other capitals, and considering whether they should or should not do something, costs us lives and territories.”
More than 4,000 people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more displaced since the Russian invasion began.