President Biden on Monday said his administration will not send to Ukraine long-range missile systems that can strike into Russian territory, sending a conflicting message after media outlets reported that officials were preparing to send weapons with long-distance capabilities.
“We are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia,” Biden told reporters on the South Lawn.
The statement conflicts with reporting by CNN and The Washington Post that the administration was preparing to provide Ukraine with the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), a U.S.-made system that can fire rockets up to 300 kilometers, allowing Ukrainian forces to strike into Russian territory.
It’s possible the U.S. package will only include shorter-range rockets that can’t strike beyond 50 miles.
Ukrainian officials have requested MLRS artillery for months and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), an influential member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, backed up the request in a statement after meeting with senior U.S. military officials in Germany.
“The admin must immediately provide Ukraine with the multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) Ukraine has requested. This defensive weaponry will help Ukraine defend the eastern portion of its country against Russia’s advances,” Portman tweeted on Sunday.
“The admin must not deter itself from providing this assistance for fear of provoking Russia. The MLRS can help balance the field in Ukraine’s favor and should be approved and shipped immediately,” he added.
Olga Skabeeva, a Russian television host, warned Friday that shipping long-range rockets to Ukraine would cross what she called a red line.
“The U.S. MLRS can launch shells over 500 kilometers. And if the Americans do this, they will clearly cross a red line, and we will record an attempt to provoke a very harsh response from Russia,” she warned.