The UK is set to send long-range missiles to Ukraine for the first time, despite yet more dire warnings from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
It comes after the capital Kyiv was targeted this weekend for the first time since April.
Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that an unspecified number of M270 launchers, which can fire precision-guided rockets up to 50 miles – a longer range than any missile technology currently in use in the war – will be sent to the Ukrainians.
The BBC reported that they would receive three of the missiles.
But Putin specifically lashed out at Western military supplies on Sunday, warning that any Western deliveries of longer-range rocket systems would prompt Moscow to hit ‘objects that we haven’t yet struck’.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted this morning: ‘We cannot stand by while Russian long-range artillery flattens cities and kills innocent civilians.
‘The UK will gift the Ukrainian Armed Forces multiple-launch rocket systems so they can effectively repel the continuing Russian onslaught.’
Earlier, Mr Wallace had said in a Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement: ‘The UK stands with Ukraine in this fight and is taking a leading role in supplying its heroic troops with the vital weapons they need to defend their country from unprovoked invasion.
‘If the international community continues its support, I believe Ukraine can win.
‘As Russia’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine. These highly capable multiple-launch rocket systems will enable our Ukrainian friends to better protect themselves against the brutal use of long-range artillery, which Putin’s forces have used indiscriminately to flatten cities.’
Ukrainian troops will be trained in the UK to use the equipment, he added.
The MoD explained that the decision to provide the launchers was closely co-ordinated with the US government, which previously confirmed that it would be supplying High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to Ukraine.
The United States announced plans to deliver $700 million dollars (£560 million) of security assistance for Ukraine that includes four precision-guided, medium-range rocket systems, as well as helicopters, Javelin anti-tank systems, radars, tactical vehicles and more.
The four medium-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems in the security package include launchers on wheels that allow troops to strike a target and then quickly move away – which could be useful against Russian artillery on the battlefield.
The US did stop short of offering Ukraine longer-range weapons that could fire deep into Russia.
But anxiety remained in the West about how Russia would respond to the move, and following the announcement, Putin vowed to hit new targets.
He claimed: ‘All this fuss around additional deliveries of weapons, in my opinion, has only one goal: To drag out the armed conflict as much as possible.’
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In an interview with state TV channel Russia-1, filmed on Friday, the Russian President added: ‘If they are delivered, we will draw appropriate conclusions from this and use our weapons, which we have enough of, to strike at those objects that we have not yet hit.’
The threat of military escalation did not specify what the new targets might be.
But on Sunday, residents of Kyiv woke on Sunday to the first Russian strikes on the capital since April 28.
The Spanish daily El Pais reported on Sunday that Spain planned to supply anti-aircraft missiles and up to 40 Leopard 2 A4 battle tanks to Ukraine.
Spain’s Ministry of Defence did not comment on the report.
Meanwhile, the UK announced a specialist legal and police team will be offered to assist the chief prosecutor investigating alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
In recent days, Russian forces have focused on taking Ukraine’s eastern cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. On Sunday they continued their push, with missile and airstrikes on cities and villages in the Donbas.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in its daily intelligence update that Ukrainian counterattacks in Sieverodonetsk were ‘likely blunting the operational momentum Russian forces previously gained through concentrating combat units and firepower’.
Russian forces previously had been making a string of advances in the city, but Ukrainian fighters have pushed back in recent days.
The statement also claimed Russia’s military was partly relying on reserve forces of Luhansk separatists.
‘These troops are poorly equipped and trained, and lack heavy equipment in comparison to regular Russian units,’ the intelligence update added.
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