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US still refusing to send long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine

The US is holding firm against sending long-range missiles to Ukraine

The US is holding firm against sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, despite pleas from Volodymyr Zelensky and Congress, according to US reports.

Joe Biden’s line on sending the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) appeared to have softened in May when the US president said that the technology was “still in play”.

But according to the Washington Post, the policy of not sending the missiles is likely to remain in place, despite a public perception that there was a “gravitational pull” towards approval.

Underpinning the administration’s reluctance to send the missiles is the limited size of the US stockpile and fears that the conflict could escalate out of control if Ukraine fired them into Russian territory.

Mr Biden and Mr Zelensky are understood to have discussed the missiles at the Nato summit in Vilnius.

Ukraine has been pushing for the missiles – which have a range of 190 miles – which it says are essential for destroying Russian command posts a long way back from the front line.

Volodymyr Zelensky has been pleading for the ATACMS

Volodymyr Zelensky has been pleading for the ATACMS – JO YONG HAK/AFP

Ukraine has asked for hundreds of the missiles with Andriy Yermak, the head of Mr Zelensky’s presidential office, saying on Thursday they were top of Ukraine’s shopping list.

Kyiv’s cause has bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House of Representatives, said: “There’s no reason to give Ukraine just enough to bleed but not enough to win.”

America’s policy on ATACMS differs from its Nato partners’ approach to missiles.

Assured by Kyiv that it would not target Russia itself, Britain and France have supplied Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles, which have a range of 140 miles, to Ukraine.

Advocates of ATACMS deliveries hope the US position will evolve in a similar fashion to its approach to supplying Kyiv with F-16 jets.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration refused to authorise Western allies to carry out the training on the aircraft.

But in a change of heart Washington fell into line with Nato with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying last week that training on the jets would start “in a matter of weeks, not months”.

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A training centre has been set up in Romania.

The jets were seen as essential for bolstering the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which had stalled because of Russian air superiority.

Speaking on CNN on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukraine had already reclaimed half the territory Russia had seized in its invasion.

“These are still relatively early days of the counteroffensive. It is tough,” he said, adding: “It will not play out over the next week or two. We’re still looking I think at several months.”

He also confirmed that he expected Ukraine to get the F-16 jets.

“And the important focus is on making sure that when they do, they’re properly trained, they’re able to maintain the planes, and use them in a smart way.”

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