US approves Ukraine strikes on Crimea - reports
US officials say they are in support of the Ukrainian strikes on Crimea if that's what Kiev sees fit.
Kiev was behind the explosions that took place in the past week in Crimea, including one at Saki airbase that destroyed several Russian aircraft, a Ukrainian government document obtained by CNN said on Wednesday.
Ukrainian officials are yet to publicly admit to Kiev's involvement in explosions that rocked Crimea last week. However, Defense Minister Oleski Reznikov told Voice of America on Wednesday that Ukraine still has striking territories taken over by the Russians using weapons given to Kiev by the United States.
"If we are talking today about the de-occupation of temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine where the enemy is, then, correspondingly, we have no such restrictions," he said. There still would be no attacks on any legally recognized Russian territories, he said
No one has officially claimed responsibility, and it remained unclear what caused the explosions at the Saki airbase.
Russia said the incident was an accident, though many are suggesting that what happened was an attack. However, the United States was quick to claim that it had not given Ukraine anything that would allow its forces to strike that far into Russian territories despite all the munition and weapons it gave Kiev.
"We haven't provided anything that allows or that would enable them to strike into Crimea," a senior US defense official told reporters.
The official specifically said it could not have been a US precision-guided, medium-range tactical missile, known as ATACMS, which can be launched by US-supplied HIMARS systems already in Ukraine.
"We don't select targets, of course, and everything we've provided is for self-defense purposes. Any target they choose to pursue on sovereign Ukrainian soil is by definition self-defense," a senior administration official said, as quoted by NatSec Daily. The official stressed that the US supported strikes on Crimea "if Kiev deems them necessary."
"Russian forces have no business being there, and attacking Russian forces in Crimea is no different than attacking them around Kyiv or in Kherson or eastern Ukraine," said Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO under the Trump administration.
The explosions at Saki airfield occurred on the 167th day of the Ukraine war, and Moscow is still investigating the attack, noting that the airfield was not attacked.
The Biden administration’s position isn’t a shift so much as an affirmation of long-standing policy. Even though they have been exceedingly clear Ukraine shouldn’t use American-made weapons to attack inside Russia — which President JOE BIDEN fears would spark World War III — Washington doesn’t recognize Moscow’s control over the forcibly seized peninsula.
The world may witness more explosions in Crimea "over the next two or three months," a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Guardian on Tuesday.
The US State Department issued a statement earlier this month written by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing that he is authorizing the US' largest single drawdown of arms and equipment to support Ukraine.
"This eighteenth drawdown since August 2021 of up to $1 billion includes arms, munitions, and equipment from U.S. Department of Defense inventories for Ukraine’s self-defense," the statement said.
The package is expected to contain more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, 20 120mm mortar systems, 20,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition, and munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS).
So far, the US has sent 16 HIMARS to Ukraine and pledged to send two NASAMS on July 1.
Though the United States has been taking care of providing training for the Ukrainian soldiers when it comes to arms they are not accustomed to, Kiev is still selling its arms to the black market due to "inexperience".