American long-range projectiles may have been used to destroy Russian anti-aircraft systems and ammunition depots. Russian ambassador in Washington condemns “serious mistake”.
(DW) Ukraine used American long-range ATACMS missiles against Russian military forces for the first time. “Today, special thanks to the United States. Our agreements with President [Joe] Biden are being implemented. With great precision: the ATACMS have proven effective,” announced President Volodimir Zelenski on Tuesday (17/10), in his daily address posted on social media.
Although Zelenski did not give any further details about where or when the operation took place, Ukrainian special forces had previously recorded their attack on two Russian airfields, destroying nine military helicopters, an anti-aircraft missile system and an ammunition depot.
In a statement, US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson commented: “We believe that these ATACMS will provide a significant boost to Ukrainian capabilities on the battlefield, without affecting our military preparedness.” The surface-to-surface projectiles have a maximum range of 300 kilometers, but the version supplied to Kiev is limited to around 165 kilometers, Watson clarified.
Russian ambassador: “mistake” will have serious consequences
On Wednesday, the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, condemned this military support: “The White House’s decision to send long-range missiles to the Ukrainians is a serious mistake. The consequences of this action, which was deliberately concealed from the public, will be very serious.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, citing the need to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the neighboring country, as well as to protect against the alleged threat of an advance by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe.
Russian aggression is condemned by a large part of the community, which has responded with military, humanitarian and political support for Kiev. On September 10, 2023, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 9,614 civilians killed and 17,535 wounded in the conflict.
What are ATACMS missiles?
These missiles can hit targets up to 300 kilometers away and are designed for “deep attacks on enemy forces”, according to the US Army. They can be used to attack command and control centers, air defenses and logistics sites well beyond the front line.
According to the Financial Times, initially only a few ATACMS will be sent to Kiev, equipped with cluster bombs rather than a single explosive warhead.
The decision to use cluster bombs, a controversial weapon banned by 111 countries, would have had more support in the Pentagon as it would not have reduced US stocks of missiles with single warheads.
Until now, Ukraine has been using US short-range missiles, the Himars, and long-range missiles produced by the UK and France, the Storm Shadow.
The ATACMS can be fired from the ground, from the same Himars launchers already used by Ukraine, while the Storm Shadow needs to be fired from the air, from Ukrainian fighter jets.