Biden allows Ukraine to attack certain targets in Russia with US weapons

image caption, The US has supplied Ukraine with weapons, including howitzers

US President Joe Biden has authorized Ukraine to use US-supplied weapons to attack targets in Russia, but only near the Kharkiv region, US officials say.

One person told BBC News that his team was instructed to ensure that Ukraine uses US weapons for “counterinsurgency purposes” to “attack or prepare to attack Russian forces”.

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

On Friday, Ukrainian authorities said three people were killed and 16 wounded after Russian shelling hit a residential building on the outskirts of Kharkiv.

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.

Asked by the BBC’s US partner CBS if the new policy included striking Russian aircraft, one official said: “We never told them. [Ukraine] They cannot shoot down a Russian plane on Russian soil that is coming to attack them.

The White House and State Department had no immediate comment.

Britain has previously signaled it is open to loosening restrictions on how Ukraine can use Western-supplied weapons.

Despite concerns that such a development could further escalate the conflict, several European leaders have recently called for a loosening of restrictions on the use of such weapons.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hinted at the change during a visit to Moldova on Wednesday.

“Every step of the way, we’ve adapted and adjusted as needed,” he said.

“So that’s what we’ll be doing going forward.”

Russian forces appear to have recently seized the opportunity to push deeper into Ukrainian territory in Kharkiv, and Kiev is waiting for more Western weapons to come forward.

Early Friday morning, Kharkiv regional governor Ole Tsinihubov said in a telegram that Russian shelling hit a five-story apartment building in Kharkiv’s Novopavarsky district, destroying part of the building and causing a fire.

At least three people, including a 12-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, were killed and 16 injured, both of whom were taken to hospital, he said.

The Ukrainian official accused Russian forces of using a “double strike strategy” targeting “exclusively civilian infrastructure”, striking the site a second time after paramedics and rescue workers arrived.

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