Kyiv – Russian forces tightened their grip on an industrial Ukrainian city as part of their drive to control the eastern Donbas region and targeted rail links used to ferry in weapons from Kyiv’s Western allies as the war approaches its 100th day on Friday.
Russia accused the United States of adding “fuel to the fire” after U.S. president Joe Biden announced a U.S. $700 million weapons package for Ukraine that will include advanced rocket systems with a range of up to 80 kilometres (50 miles).
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a forum in Slovakia on Thursday that Kyiv was grateful for the military aid it has received, but he added: “Weapons supplies should be stepped up… (to) ensure an inflection point in this confrontation.”
The Biden administration said Ukraine promised it would not use the rocket systems to hit targets inside Russia.
Biden hoped extending Ukraine’s artillery reach will help push Russia to negotiate an end to a war in which thousands of people have been killed, cities and towns flattened, and more than six million people forced to flee the country.
“Ukraine needs weapons to liberate Ukrainian territory that Russia has temporarily occupied,” Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said, as he shrugged off Moscow’s criticism of the U.S. decision.
“We are not fighting on Russian territory. We are interested in our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Moscow said it regarded Ukrainian infrastructure used to bring in Western arms as a legitimate target in what it calls its “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of ultra-nationalists the Kremlin said threatened Russian security.
“Pumping (Western) weapons into Ukraine does not change all the parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
“Its goals will be achieved, but this will bring more suffering to Ukraine,” said Peskov, responding to a question about whether U.S. plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use may change the parameters of the conflict.
Four Russian missiles hit railway infrastructure targets in two places in the western Lviv region bordering Poland late on Wednesday, governor Maksym Kozytskyi said, injuring five people and causing significant damage.