Moscow warns of escalation after Ukraine says it may attack Russia

image source, Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

image caption, Russian forces have invaded the Kharkiv region and captured several border villages

  • author, Paul Kirby
  • stock, BBC News

Russia has accused NATO and the US of “inciting a new level of tension” after the US and Germany became the latest allies to allow Ukraine’s military to use Western-supplied weapons to attack targets inside Russia.

A Berlin spokesman said Germany believed Ukraine had the right to defend itself from Russia, particularly from cross-border attacks on its second-largest city, Kharkiv.

U.S. officials said the U.S.-supplied weapons could be used to counter Russian fire near the Kharkiv region where Russian forces are “attacking them or preparing to attack them.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the decision would help protect civilians living in villages near the Russian border.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Tass news agency as saying that NATO countries, especially the United States and several European countries, “have entered a new round of escalating tensions, and they are doing this deliberately.”

“They are in every way to provoke Ukraine to continue this senseless war.”

Russian forces have made gains in recent weeks in the Kharkiv region after a surprise offensive in the area near the border with Russia.

However, a US official told the BBC: “Our policy is to prohibit the use of a military tactical missile system. [ATACMS] Nor did long-range strikes within Russia change.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Friday that Berlin “collectively believes” that Ukraine has the right to defend itself against a Russian attack.

“To do this, in accordance with its international legal obligations, it can also use weapons provided for this purpose; including those provided by us,” he said.

Germany has yet to deliver its powerful Taurus missiles to Ukraine, while the UK has delivered Storm Shadow missiles and France has handed over its Scalp Cruise missiles.

Russia said on Friday it had pushed Ukrainian forces back 9 km (6 miles) from the border in Kharkiv region, adding that it now controls the mountains near the village of Lipsi. Kharkiv is 30 km from the Russian border.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken repeated his message from earlier this week that the US will continue to do what it has done up until now, “adapt and adjust as needed”.

Speaking to reporters at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague, he welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s decision to ease restrictions on Ukraine’s use of weapons.

NATO allies have also raised questions about the possibility of US-made F-16 fighter jets being stationed on Russian borders.

Ukrainian pilots have been training on F-16s in recent months and the first flights are expected to reach Ukraine this summer.

Denmark is to hand over 19 F-16s to Ukraine in the summer and Foreign Minister Lars L√łkke Rasmussen clarified: “This is not carte blanche for Ukraine to use F-16s to carry out arbitrary attacks inside Russia.”

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Friday refused to confirm that Danish F-16s could be deployed over the Russian border. The planes were very close to flying over Ukraine, but “we’re not going to go into more details,” he said.

The Netherlands avoided making a clear announcement on the F-16s. Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot confirmed that, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the Dutch government would “allow Ukraine to use weapons on Russian soil if it is in a state of full self-defense.”

Belgium’s Alexandre de Croux refused to allow Ukraine to use its F-16s over Russia when he met with President Zelensky earlier this week. Mr De Croo met President Biden at the White House on Friday.

Russian officials have made clear their anger at the prospect of F-16s being deployed on their territory. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the F-16s would be destroyed like anything else offered by NATO and would not change the situation.

However, he warned that because the F-16s have long been used in NATO’s “so-called joint nuclear missions”, their delivery to Kiev would only be seen as a “deliberate signal from NATO regarding nuclear weapons”.

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