An American-made rocket system is finally in the hands of Ukrainian troops — after weeks of clamoring by Kyiv for more long-range weapons to curb Kremlin advances in the eastern region of the country.
“HIMARS have arrived to Ukraine,” the country’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, tweeted Thursday. “Thank you to my American colleague and friend [Secretary of Defense] Lloyd J. Austin III for these powerful tools!
“Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them,” he added.
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is a modern, truck-based American rocket system that US officials say will allow Ukrainian forces to hit targets up to 50 miles away.
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin, however, indicates that — armed with the right rockets — a HIMARS system can hit targets at more than three times that distance.
Washington has expressed concern that Ukrainian rocket strikes beyond the Russian border would further escalate the conflict, and has sought assurances from Kyiv that Russian territory is off-limits for strikes.
It was unclear on Thursday precisely which rockets were provided to the Ukrainians, as well as how many launchers had arrived.
The long-range systems represent Ukraine’s best hope for turning the tide in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region of Ukraine where a dogged Russian offensive threatens to push Ukrainian defenders out of the region entirely.
In the northern Donbas state of Luhansk on Thursday, Russian troops put yet more pressure on the sole Ukrainian holdout in the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
Regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Thursday that Russian forces had captured two additional villages south of the cities, which straddle the Siversky Donets River in southwestern Luhansk.
Those Russian victories in Rai-Oleksandrivka and Loskutivka mean the Kremlin is close to surrounding Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, and cutting them off from any retreat or resupply.
“In order to avoid encirclement, our command could order that the troops retreat to new positions,” Haidai said on Ukrainian television.
“All of Lysychansk is within reach of their fire. It is very dangerous in the city.”
With Post wires