The British military announced on Monday that it would send its most sophisticated multiple-launch rocket system to Ukraine, joining the United States in providing critically-needed long-range artillery at a moment when Russia is using its vast armaments to pummel Ukrainian positions across the eastern front.
The announcement came days after the Biden administration said that it would provide Ukraineand munitions in the hope of giving the country an edge over Russia.
“As Russia’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine,” said Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have pleaded for such weapons for months, but it could be weeks longer before they make an impact on the battlefield. Ukrainian soldiers must be trained to use the systems, which are far more advanced than anything currently in Kyiv’s arsenal.
The use of overwhelming and often indiscriminate force has allowed the Russians to make limited gains in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s forces on Monday pounded targets across the 75-mile eastern front line, according to the Ukrainian military.
At the moment, Russian artillery can reach further than the weapons that the Ukrainians have at their disposal, allowing Russian forces to rain down rounds day and night, without the Ukrainians being able to effectively strike back. The barrages have exacted a heavy toll on the Ukrainian army: the Ukrainian government has said that as many as 100 soldiers are dying every day.
The decisions by the United States and Britain mark the latest escalation in a steadily increasing flow of weapons from the West to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in late February.
The United States began sending heavy artillery to Ukraine in April. As of May 26, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said that it had delivered 85 M777 howitzers to Ukraine, as well as 190,000 projectiles for use in those weapons systems.
The multiple-rocket launch systems being supplied by the United States and Britain offer Ukraine the opportunity to strike Russian targets from a far greater distance, and with greater precision.
The American High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, can hit targets nearly 50 miles away and is capable of firing satellite-guided rockets that carry roughly the same explosive power as a 500-pound bomb dropped from the air. .
The British M270 multiple-launch rocket system offers similar capabilities, Mr. Wallace said, adding that they “will enable our Ukrainian friends to better protect themselves against the brutal use of long-range artillery, which Putin’s forces have used indiscriminately to flatten cities.”
Before supplying the weapons, the United States was promised by the Ukrainians that they would not use the long-range rockets to go after targets inside Russia. The BBC reported that the British government received similar assurances.
In remarks aired by Russian state media on Sunday, Mr. Putin was dismissive of the U.S. weapons, saying they are “nothing new,” but at the same time warned that if Russia felt threatened, it would “strike those facilities that we are not attacking so far.”