Berlin lets Ukraine use German weapons against targets in Russia after the U.S. also eases its stance

Kyiv has the right under international law to defend itself against Russia’s attacks on Kharkiv, says Berlin; the move triggered a furious response from Moscow

Published - May 31, 2024 10:28 pm IST - KYIV

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius attend a joint press conference, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine on May 30, 2024.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius attend a joint press conference, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine on May 30, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Germany joined the U.S. on Friday in authorising Ukraine to hit some targets on Russian soil with the long-range weapons they are supplying — a significant policy change that comes as depleted Ukrainian troops are losing ground in the war.

Ukrainian officials have expressed frustration over restrictions on the use of Western weapons — especially as the border region of Kharkiv has endured a Russian onslaught this month that has stretched Kyiv’s outgunned and outmanned forces.

Both Germany and the U.S. specifically authorised the use of weapons to defend Kharkiv, whose capital city of the same name lies only 20 km from Russia. Russian ballistic missiles slammed into an apartment building in the city overnight, Ukrainian officials said, killing at least five people.

The German government said Ukraine can use weapons it supplies against positions just over the border, from where Russia launches its attacks on Kharkiv.

A day earlier, U.S. President Joe Biden gave Kyiv a green light to strike back with American weapons at Russian military assets targeting the region, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

In response, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said on Friday that “Ukraine and its NATO allies will receive such a devastating response that the alliance will not be able to avoid entering the conflict” — an eventuality that Western governments have ruled out.

The German government statement noted that, in recent weeks, Russia has prepared, coordinated and carried out attacks on the Kharkiv region, in particular from areas just over the border in Russia.

“Together we are convinced that Ukraine has the right under international law to defend itself against these attacks,” the statement said. “For this, it can also use the weapons delivered for that purpose in accordance with its international legal commitments, including the ones delivered by us,” it added.

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