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Ukraine uses U.S.-supplied long-range ATACMS missiles for first time in counteroffensive against Russia

Ukraine used U.S.-supplied long-range missiles to strike at Russian airbases in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine on Tuesday after the U.S. secretly shipped variants of the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) in recent weeks, according to U.S. officials. 

President Joe Biden promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a meeting at the White House last month that the U.S. would provide the ATACMS that Ukraine has sought for months. 

Russia Ukraine War Weapons Explainer
FILE: In this image provided by the U.S. Army, soldiers, from the 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade out of Fort Bragg N.C., conduct live fire testing at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., on Dec. 14, 2021, of early versions of the Army Tactical Missile System.  John Hamilton / AP

The Biden administration had been reluctant to send the missiles, which have a variety of ranges all the way up to 190 miles, because of the risk of escalation with Russia. 

The ATACMS variant Ukraine used Tuesday has a range of 100 miles and carries a cluster munition, a U.S. official said. Ukraine struck helicopters at airfields in Russia with the missiles. 

In a post on X, Ukraine's special operation forces said the military carried out a strike on Russian air bases in Berdyansk and Luhansk. That post didn't specify what weapons were used, but Zelenskyy, in his nightly address, thanked President Biden for the ATACMS

The Defense Department routinely announces the weapons and equipment the U.S. is providing, but it has apparently made an exception with the provision of the ATACMS. 

The ATACMS shipment follows a pattern the Biden administration has set throughout the war of initially resisting requests for certain capabilities only to eventually commit to providing them. Most notably, this was the case for Abrams tanks and training on F-16 fighter jets the U.S. has now promised Ukraine. 

U.S. officials have defended the choices by saying the U.S. is giving Ukraine the most urgent capabilities. In total, the Biden administration has provided Ukraine almost $44 billion in security assistance since the start of Russia's invasion in February 2022

David Martin contributed to this report.

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