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Ukraine Utilizes Long-Range US Missiles in Strategic Strikes

For the first time, Ukraine has deployed long-range ballistic missiles provided by the United States, targeting a Russian military airfield in Crimea and forces in another occupied region. 

This marks a significant escalation in Ukraine’s military capabilities, as these missiles extend the nation’s strike range to approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles), nearly double that of previous armaments.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that additional missiles of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) type were part of a recent military aid package from the U.S.

President Joe Biden sanctioned the delivery of these advanced weapons systems, which were first approved in February and subsequently included in a $300 million aid package announced in March.

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U.S. officials, while withholding specific quantities, indicated that a substantial number of these missiles were sent last month, with more included in the latest $1 billion aid package.

This development comes amid increasing Russian offensives, prompting Ukraine to intensify its requests for long-range capabilities that allow strikes on distant targets while keeping Ukrainian forces out of harm’s way.

The decision to equip Ukraine with such potent weapons was made with caution, considering the potential to provoke Moscow by enabling strikes deep within Russian-controlled territories. 

Initially, the U.S. provided mid-range systems in October, which have a range of about 160 kilometers (roughly 100 miles), to mitigate escalation risks.

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Adm. Christopher Grady of the Joint Chiefs of Staff highlighted that the strategic timing for these weapons aims to disrupt Russian logistical and troop concentrations away from frontline areas. 

He emphasized that all provided systems should be used within the confines of Ukrainian sovereign territory, a stipulation also echoed by the State Department to avoid escalating the conflict into Russian lands.

The utilization of these missiles was kept under wraps, with confirmation only coming after their initial deployment in combat last week. 

Ukrainian forces used the ATACMS to strike key military targets including the airfield in Dzhankoi, Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

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The effectiveness of these strikes has been acknowledged by U.S. legislators who have been advocating for the provision of long-range weapons to Ukraine. 

Sen. Roger Wicker noted that these successful operations demonstrate Ukraine’s capability to achieve significant battlefield victories with appropriate support.

This advancement in military aid coincides with delays in Congressional approval of a $95 billion foreign aid package, which has exacerbated Ukraine’s ammunition shortages amidst intense Russian bombardments across eastern Ukraine.

The delivery of these long-range missiles not only represents a pivotal moment in U.S.-Ukraine relations but also signifies a strategic shift in Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. 

As the conflict enters its third year, the deployment of such advanced weaponry could potentially alter the dynamics on the ground, providing Ukrainian forces with the means to launch more effective counter-offensives and reduce the pressure on their defenses.