Biden gave Ukraine permission to strike inside Russia with US weapons: Official

The move marks a major reversal for the Biden administration.

May 30, 2024, 4:49 PM

President Joe Biden has given Ukraine permission to strike inside Russia near the area of Kharkiv using American-provided weapons, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News on Thursday.

The move marks a major reversal for the administration, as just two days ago White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters they didn't "encourage or enable" the use of munitions provided by the U.S. to strike inside Russia.

"The President recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use U.S.-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them," a U.S. official said. "Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS or long range strikes inside of Russia has not changed.”

Pressed on how this squares with Biden's repeated insistence that the U.S. will not engage directly with Russia, the official said, "This is a limited change to allow Ukrainians to defend themselves against imminent threats around Kharkiv. It should not be construed as a shift away from our broader policy that we don’t encourage or enable US weapons to be used against targets inside Russia."

An employee of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine stands in the middle of debris in a hardware supermarket in Kharkiv destroyed by a Russian strike, May 26, 2024, amid the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images

While mulling this move, the White House has frequently noted that U.S. support to Ukraine has "evolved appropriately" to the changing battlefield conditions.

With the addition of the U.S., 13 countries have now given Ukraine permission to strike Russian military targets using Western weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to respond, saying just a week ago that Moscow would retaliate with strikes on British targets if British weapons are used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory.

Politico was the first to report the decision by the Biden administration.