KYIV:Russian troops fought to take complete control of the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday as the United States said it will provide Ukraine with advanced rockets to help it force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war.
President Joe Biden said the United States would provide Ukraine with more advanced rocket systems and munitions so it can “more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield”.
“We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table,” Biden wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times
A senior Biden administration official said weaponry provided would include the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which Ukraine’s armed forces chief said a month ago was “crucial” to counter Russian missile attacks.
Addressing concerns that such weapons could draw the United States into a direct conflict with Russia, senior administration officials said Ukraine gave assurances the missiles would not be used to strike inside Russia.
“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” the U.S. official told reporters.
Shortly after the U.S. decision was announced, the Russian defence ministry said Russia’s nuclear forces were holding drills in the Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported.
Some 1,000 servicemen were exercising in intense manoeuvres using more than 100 vehicles including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, it cited the ministry as saying.
There was no mention of the U.S. decision to supply new weapons in the Interfax report.
The latest U.S. pledge of weapons for Ukraine – on top of billions of dollars worth of equipment already provided including anti-aircraft missiles and drones – came as Russia pressed its assault to seize the eastern Donbas region, having abandoned its earlier thrust toward Kyiv from the north.
Russian troops have now taken control of most of the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk, one of two provinces in the Donbas, regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai on Tuesday.
Nearly all critical infrastructure in Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed and 60% of residential property damaged beyond repair, he said. Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people.
A Russian victory in Sievierodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk across the Siverskyi Donets river would bring full control of Luhansk, one of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.
A pro-Moscow separatist leader said Russian proxies had advanced slower than expected to “maintain the city’s infrastructure” and exercise caution around its chemical factories.