When the US changed its policy of attacking Russia, Kharkiv was attacked again

Debris covered a street and firefighters rushed to rescue people from an apartment complex hit by a Russian missile early Friday morning in the city of Kharkiv, just hours after US officials revealed policy change allowing Ukraine to defend against such attacks by striking targets in Russia with US-supplied weapons.

The change is narrow in scope, allowing Ukraine to use US air defense systems, guided missiles and artillery to fire only at Russia along Ukraine’s northeastern border, near Kharkiv. Fighting has raged in the region for the past three weeks after Russian troops swept across the border to open a new front in the war.

But attacking targets with American weapons inside Russian territory had been a red line drawn by the Biden administration out of fears of escalation before cross-border fighting began near Kharkiv. Russia launched missiles and concentrated forces to ensure safety on its territory, out of range of Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons.

The attacks have prompted Ukraine to urgently call on the Biden administration to lift its shackles, considering the use of Western weapons as a purely defensive tactic. Indeed, when granting the license, US officials said the weapons should only be used for self-defense in border areas.

Still, it’s a dramatic reversal that Ukraine hopes will help it regain its footing in a war that Russia now dominates, as well as a historic moment for the United States: This appears to be The first time an American president allowed limits on power. use American weapons to attack within the borders of a nuclear-armed enemy.

There was no immediate response from Ukrainian officials about the policy change. It is unclear how much of the US arms package approved by Congress last month has arrived in northern Ukraine, or how long Ukraine will be able to use it.

Ukrainian officials have said that allowing the use of Western weapons could help turn the tide of the war along the border and fend off attacks on the city of Kharkiv, whose city center is just 24 miles from Russia. , by hitting missile launchers and aircraft inside Russian territory. territory.

Officials in Britain, France, Poland and Sweden had voiced support for using their country’s weapons to attack Russian territory before the Biden administration changed its stance, and NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg spoke out in favor of allowing Ukraine to use weapons. from coalition members to attack targets inside Russia.

Friday’s attack on the city is the type of attack that Ukraine has cited in urging the United States to revise its policies.

“Unfortunately, a multi-storey apartment building was hit,” Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in a statement after the early morning rocket attack.

Mr. Terekhov said a fire broke out. Minutes after the first missile hit, another missile struck the same location in a tactic known as double tap targeting emergency responders.

The attack killed three people and injured 23, local news reported citing regional governor Serhiy Synehubov. He said the injured included a police officer and medical staff who arrived at the scene after the first rocket exploded. He said a Russian S-300 missile, an outdated anti-aircraft missile that Russia has repurposed to attack ground targets, hit the apartment building.

Ukraine has struck targets deeper within Russia with its fleet of domestic long-range explosive drones. Ukrainian officials said before the announcement in Washington that American weapons would help Ukrainian troops fight on the ground north of Kharkiv and Ukrainian air defense forces protect the city.

For the residents of Kharkiv, the bombardment was a threat that overshadowed most aspects of their lives.

The short trajectories of bombs and missiles mean that civilians have little warning, or sometimes no warning at all, leaving people with no choice but to sleep and get through the day knowing that they can be attacked by missiles at any time.

“It all happened instantly,” said Andriy Kolenchuk, production manager at the printing company attacked on May 23. “Explosions rang out, lights went out and debris fell from the ceiling,” he said. Smoke and dust swirled and “people were running everywhere, covered in blood.”

Russian bombs and missiles pound Ukraine’s second-largest city with a current population of about a million people, often several times a day. Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klimenko said that in one of the attacks with the highest casualties in recent weeks, a missile attack on a hardware supermarket on May 25 killed 19 people.

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kharkiv.

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