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US secretly shipped long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine in recent weeks for use against Russia: Official

An early version of the Army Tactical Missile System is tested at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in 2021. (Photo by AP)

The United States has shipped long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine in recent weeks for use against Russia, an American official says, as President Joe Biden signed into law legislation that authorizes more than $60 billion in war assistance to the ex-Soviet republic.

The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles were included in a $300 million military aid package for Kiev that Biden approved back on March 12, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed US official as saying.

The newly-shipped missiles have nearly double the range of the mid-range ATACMS that the US began sending to Ukraine toward the end of last year.

The long-range ATACMS missiles were used for the first time in the early hours of April 17, against a Russian airfield in Crimea that was about 165 kilometers from the Ukrainian front lines, the official said.

The official, however, did not say how many missiles have been shipped to Ukraine so far.

Kiev has repeatedly urged its Western allies to provide it with long-range ATACMS missiles, which have a range of about 300 kilometers, roughly four times the range of the missiles used by the mobile HIMARS systems that the US began sending to Ukraine in 2022.

Ukraine says the ATACMS missiles will help its forces strike Russian positions far behind the front lines.

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters, “We’ve already sent some, we will send more.”

He also stressed that Ukraine has committed to only use the weapons inside Ukraine, not in Russia.

Some of the missiles were part of a $1 billion weapons package for Ukraine that Biden approved on Wednesday, Sullivan added.

Separately, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said that the delivery of ATACMS missiles to Ukraine had not been announced “in order to maintain operational security for Ukraine at their request.”

Neither Sullivan nor Patel, however, confirmed the number of ATACMS shipped.

Washington has already provided Kiev with HIMARS launchers, capable of firing ATACMS missiles, which can hit Russian targets way behind the frontline between the two warring neighbors.

Russia has warned that the conflict in Ukraine could be prolonged due to the support of Western countries, on top of them the US, for Kiev. 

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