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NATO debating whether to let Ukraine strike inside Russia as Kiev begging for long-range missiles

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) shakes hands with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. (File photo)

Member states of the US-led NATO may decide to let Ukraine strike inside Russia with Western-donated arms, as Kiev is begging for long-range missiles from its Western allies.

NATO foreign ministers on Thursday gathered in the Czech capital of Prague primarily to hammer out a package of support for the ex-Soviet republic at the military alliance's summit in the United States in July.

However, the two-day Prague meeting is haunted by the tough question of whether to remove restrictions stopping Kiev from using Western weapons, notably long-range missiles, to strike inside Russia, as calls are growing to allow Ukraine to hit Russia to hamper Moscow's advances.  

Kiev has been begging its Western backers – the US in particular – to gain permission to use the longer-range weaponry it has been supplied by Washington and its allies to strike targets inside Russia.

The Western alliance, however, has so far been reluctant to grant such permission out of fear of retaliation from Moscow, anticipating that such escalations could drag NATO member states closer to direct conflict with the Russian Federation.

The US and Germany have so far opposed striking over the border, but NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has time and again said that it was time for members to reconsider those limits, arguing that such restrictions hamper Ukraine’s ability to purportedly defend itself.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has hinted that the restrictions strategy could change.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron also said Ukraine should be allowed to “neutralize” bases in Russia used to launch strikes.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already strongly warned against such a move by NATO, stressing that there would be “serious consequences” if Western countries give approval to Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked the West, particularly the US, for long-range missiles and advanced fighter jets to challenge Russia’s air superiority and compensate for failures on the ground.  

“They can fire any weapons from their territory at ours. This is the biggest advantage that Russia has. We can’t do anything to their systems, which are located on the territory of Russia, with Western weapons,” he said earlier this month.

Since late last year, Russia has been making gradual advances and has seen larger gains along the northeastern border in an operation that began on May 10 in the Kharkiv region.

Suffering from manpower shortages, Kiev has just passed a mobilization law to boost the forces’ morale, according to a rare acknowledgment from Zelensky, as Ukrainian fighters are increasingly exhausted and angry at the lack of rotation.

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

Back in February, Putin stressed that certain Western countries are risking triggering a nuclear war by deploying boots in eastern Ukraine, warning Moscow could strike Western targets.

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