President Joe Biden has informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the U.S. will provide Ukraine with long-range missiles topped with cluster munitions, U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News on Friday. Known as ATACMS – Army Tactical Missile System – have a range of up to 190 miles and can be launched from the HIMARS mobile rocket launchers the Ukrainian military has already received.
The decision comes after a months-long appeal by Zelenskyy,at the White House on Thursday following a visit to the U.N. General Assembly earlier in the week, to discuss the ongoing counteroffensive and the nature of U.S. support to Kyiv, as the grinding war stretches into its 20th month.
American officials had balked at sending the missiles to Ukraine, out of concern that drawing from stockpiles could undermine U.S. military readiness and the possibility Russia would view the move as escalatory. The missiles will allow the Ukrainian military to strike at Russian supply lines and command posts well beyond the front lines.
The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter the administration had not yet formally announced and did not specify when the ATACMS would be transferred. A senior U.S. official familiar with the administration's deliberations said the U.S. is hoping to maintain an element of surprise with the timing of their deployment.
It is not clear which model of the ATACMS the Ukrainians will be receiving. There are various models of ATACMS, some with a range shorter than 190 miles.
NBC News first reported Biden's assurance to Zelenskyy.
Britain was the first country to send Ukraine a package of long-range cruise missiles, beginning in May and was followed by France in July. The Storm Shadows and SCALP missiles they supplied have a range of roughly 140 miles.
On Friday, footage emerged on social media apparently showing Ukrainian missile strikes on a Russian navy base in Crimea. Russian state media laterits Black Sea fleet headquarters in Sevastopol had been struck by a British or French missile, and that at least six people were injured.
Coinciding with the two presidents' meeting on Thursday, the Biden administrationan additional $325 million aid package to Ukraine. "The arms and equipment include additional air defense munitions to help strengthen Ukraine's air defense against aerial assaults from Russia," read a statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Speaking from New York City at the conclusion of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Blinken said the administration was "constantly in discussions" with Kyiv about its needs.
"This whole process will continue going forward in terms of looking to address the needs the Ukrainians have to make sure that they can be as successful as possible in continuing to recover the territory that Russia has taken from them," Blinken said.
Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.
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