Putin warns West that Russia will strike harder if Ukraine supplied with longer-range missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the "fuss" around Western weapon supplies to Ukraine was designed to drag out the conflict. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - President Vladimir Putin warned the United States in an interview broadcast on Sunday (June 5) that Russia would strike new targets if the West supplied longer-range missiles to Ukraine for use in high-precision mobile rocket systems.

If such missiles are supplied, "we will strike at those targets that we have not yet been hitting", he was quoted as saying in an excerpt of an interview with Rossiya-1 state television channel.

Mr Putin said the range of the Lockheed Martin HIMARS systems depended on the munitions supplied and that the range announced by the United States was around the same as Soviet made missile systems which Ukraine already had.

He did not name the targets that Russia planned to pursue if Western countries began supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles. He said the "fuss" around Western weapon supplies to Ukraine was designed to drag out the conflict.

Ukraine has been seeking multiple launch rocket systems such as the M270 and M142 Himars to strike troops and weapons stockpiles at the Russian forces' rear.

US President Joe Biden announced plans this week to give Ukraine precision Himars rocket systems, which has a maximum range of up to 300km, after receiving assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to hit targets inside Russia.

The US Department of Defense said it was supplying Ukraine four M142 Himars systems along with the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which it said had a range of over 40 miles (64 km) - double the range of the howitzers it supplied.

Although Russian officials have warned that the US decision to supply Ukraine with advanced rocket systems could exacerbate the conflict, Mr Putin said it would not bring on any fundamental changes on the battlefield.

"We understand that this supply (of advance rocket systems) from the United States and some other countries is meant to make up for the losses of this military equipment," he said.

"This is nothing new. It does not change anything in essence."

The war in Ukraine, Europe’s biggest ground invasion since World War II, has shown the limits of Russia’s post-Soviet military power with significant losses and several changes of strategy in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Speaking about the drones delivered by Western states to Ukraine, Mr Putin said Russian air defences were “cracking them like nuts”. Dozens, he said, had been destroyed.

The interview, which the Kremlin said was recorded on June 3 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, showed Mr Putin sitting before a large wall map of Russia, Europe and Central Asia.

Mr Putin and Russian officials do not use the world war or invasion, saying it is a “special military operation” aimed at preventing the persecution of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

The president also casts it as a turning point in Russian history: a revolt by Moscow against the United States, which he says has humiliated Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine says it is fighting for its very survival against a Russian imperial-style land grab that has irrevocably divided the two biggest Eastern Slav peoples and sown death and destruction across Europe’s second largest country by area.

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