President Vladimir Putin warned the United States that Russia will retaliate by striking new targets if it sends long-range missiles to Ukraine.
“If it now comes to rockets and they are supplied, we will draw conclusions from that and employ our weapons that we have in sufficient quantities to strike those facilities that we are not attacking so far,” Putin said in an interview aired on Russian television Sunday, state-run media reported.
The Russian leader also said all the “fuss” over missile systems being supplied to Ukraine are intended to prolong the war that entered its 102nd day on Sunday.
“In my view, all this fuss over additional deliveries of armaments generally pursues the sole objective of stretching out the armed conflict as long as possible,” Putin said, according to the news outlet Tass.
President Biden, after initially rejecting a request from Ukraine to send long-range rockets because they would reach inside Russia, did an about-face last week and announced that his administration would arm Kyiv with advanced missile systems as heavy fighting in the eastern region of the country continues.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking the US and its allies for more firepower — including Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
Zelensky is seeking the armament to counter a Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region where a number of Ukrainian cities are under heavy artillery bombardment by Russian forces.
The US shipment will also include high-tech, medium-range rocket systems, as well as helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles and other equipment as part of a $700 million military aid package.
Ukraine has pledged not to use the rockets, which have a range of about 50 miles, to strike Russian targets.
Putin shrugged off the significance of the new missile launch systems, saying Ukraine is simply replenishing its stock.
“There is nothing new about that,” he said.
“These are all multiple launch rocket systems and the Ukrainian army operates similar Soviet-and Russia-made Grad, Smerch and Uragan rocket systems,” Putin said.
The Kremlin leader said the range “depended on the rockets that are used and not on the system itself.”
“What we hear today and what we understand, these are rockets that fly to a distance of 45-70 km depending on the rocket type. The same is true about Grad, Uragan and Smerch rocket systems that I spoke about. They also have the range of 40-70 km and there is nothing new about that,” he said.