Sunday, June 16

Ukraine Strikes Into Russia With Western Weapons, Official Says

Just days after the Biden administration granted permission for Ukraine to fire American weapons into Russia, Kyiv took advantage of its new latitude, striking a military facility over the border using a U.S.-made artillery system, according to a member of Ukraine’s Parliament.

Yehor Chernev, the deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s committee on national security, defense and intelligence, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had destroyed Russian missile launchers with a strike in the Belgorod region, about 20 miles into Russia. Ukraine’s forces used a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, he said.

It was the first time a Ukrainian official has acknowledged publicly that Ukraine had used American weapons to fire into Russia since President Biden lifted the ban on such strikes. For months, the ban had stood as a red line the Biden administration would not cross out of concern about increasing tensions with a nuclear-armed nation.

The Ukrainian military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In granting permission last week, the United States imposed limitations, saying the weapons could only be used in Russian territory near northeastern Ukraine and for defensive purposes. Mr. Chernev, in text messages, said Ukraine destroyed S-300 and S-400 missile systems, without specifying how many. Russia has used the systems, initially designed to shoot down aircraft, to bombard the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which is just 45 miles from Belgorod.

The HIMARS that Ukraine used is an American-made long-range rocket system that is able to fire from beyond the range of most of Ukraine’s non-Western weaponry.

Mr. Chernev’s account of the strike could not be independently confirmed. But videos of the aftermath of the attack on the S-300 and S-400 systems emerged on Monday. Satellite imagery and social media posts suggest there were multiple strikes in Russian territory over the weekend.

Mr. Chernev, a former member of the Ukrainian military, is also the head of Ukraine’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, a role which has led him to take part in discussions with Western partners about the supply and use of Western weapons.

A video from a Russian Telegram channel showed burning Russian military equipment and a swirling plume of gray smoke after a strike on Sunday. The video, which was verified by The New York Times, was recorded just outside of Belgorod, and satellite imagery captured at this location by Planet Labs shows smoke rising from what appears to be destroyed vehicles. At least one of the launchers was in an elevated position at the time of the attack.

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an expert on the Russian military and modern warfare, said that the range and precision of the attack on the missile launching systems suggested the weapon used was American.

“Given the range, type of target, munition availability and change in the Biden administration’s policy,” he wrote in a text message, “I think it is probable this strike was conducted with HIMARS.”

Russian bloggers, researchers analyzing satellite images and footage of the battlefields and the Russian Defense Ministry have reported multiple instances of strikes inside Russia with American rockets since Thursday, when the Biden administration approved their use.

On Saturday, Evgeny Poddubny, a war correspondent for Russian state television, shared photographs of what were presented as fragments of American guided rockets found in Russian territory. It was not possible to independently verify when or where the fragments were found.

Military analysts had been watching to see when Ukraine would use American weapons on Russian territory — and how.

For weeks, Ukraine had been aggressively lobbying its Western allies to allow it to use their weapons to strike inside Russia. It said that Russian troops were massing at the border and preparing strikes on Ukraine with impunity. And it cited the urgency of being able to hit airplanes that drop so-called glide bombs from inside Russian territory that soar to targets in Ukraine, as well as striking military bases, command points and ammunition depots in Russia.

“We use every meeting and every day to give our warriors more possibilities,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine wrote in a Telegram post on Tuesday. “I am grateful to all partners who are helping in the way we need it and in time.”

Military analysts say the Ukrainians’ new ability to strike in Russia will help slow Moscow’s attacks across the border.

“Now we can hit the Russian troops at the stage of formation, which reduces the probability of preparing new offensives” at other sites on the border, said Mykhailo Samus, director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, a military research organization in Kyiv.

Russia has repeatedly warned Ukraine’s Western allies that allowing strikes inside Russia would carry grave consequences. “We would like to warn U.S. officials against miscalculations that may have fatal consequences,” a Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, said on Monday, according to the Interfax news agency. “For some unclear reasons, they underestimate the seriousness of the response they may get.”

Russia has not specified what those consequences would be, though its president, Vladimir V. Putin, last week made a veiled threat against small European countries, noting that they are “very densely populated.”

Mr. Chernev’s confirmation that American weapons had been used to strike inside Russia is the only one Ukraine has given so far, perhaps out of concern for adding fuel to Russian propaganda and stoking more bellicosity from Russia. Ukraine is also preparing for a diplomatic initiative in Switzerland later this month to present its plan for a settlement for the war.

A spokesman for the National Security Council, John F. Kirby, said the United States will not reconsider its policy prohibiting strikes deeper in Russia in the nearest weeks. The administration also prohibited Ukraine from firing a longer-range, more powerful rocket, ATACMS, into Russia. Ukrainian officials are pushing for expanded permissions to fire into Russia.

“All Russian troops at the border region must be destroyed, to not let them break through” the border, said Mr. Samus, the Ukrainian military analyst. Public disclosure of precisely how the weapons are used are unlikely, he said. “There are official positions of Ukraine and of the United States. All the rest is the fog of war.”