Britain is joining the US is supplying longer range rockets to Ukraine, despite fresh threats from Russia's president Vladimir Putin who says he is ready to expand strikes to 'decision-making centers' if these escalations from the West continue.
The Guardian is reporting Monday that "The UK will send a handful of tracked M270 multiple launch rocket systems, which can hit targets up to 50 miles away, in the hope they can disrupt the concentrated Russian artillery that has been pounding cities in eastern Ukraine."
The announcement comes as there's widespread acknowledgement that the tide of war is changing particularly in the east, where Russian forces are now making steady gains over the Donbas, with the Ukrainians saying they are suffering chronic supply shortages, including ammo and weapons.
In what appears a reference to the situation in the Donbas and the south, UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said the move to ship longer range rocket launchers is justified "as Russia’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine." However, he didn't speculate over Russia's potential response.
"As Russia’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine. These highly capable multiple-launch rocket systems 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," Wallace said.
Putin made weekend statements vowing further retaliation if the US proceeds with its HIMAR and MLRS rocket systems delivery. On Sunday five Russian cruise missiles slammed into the Ukrainian capital of Kiev - which was the first time the capital came under Russian fire in over a month. Russia said it targeted a depot that contained Western-supplied tanks - something which Ukraine denied.
Like the Biden administration before, the UK government is attempting to assure that the fresh rocket transfer will not be used to strike within Russian territory:
A British defence source said the weapons will be used "to defend Ukraine, in Ukraine". They added: "We have confidence that the weapons will be used appropriately."
A UK defense ministry statement indicated the new rocket systems will be 'gifted' to Ukraine, and that training of the Ukrainian personnel on the weapons will take place on British soil.
Meanwhile, there's been widespread speculation that Russia could threaten Western cities directly if its territory is targeted by these new Western weapons systems. Putin warned on Sunday his military is ready to hit "objects that we haven’t yet struck." And Monday the Russian foreign ministry warned:
LAVROV SAYS THE LONGER THE RANGE OF WEAPONS SENT TO UKRAINE BY THE WEST, THE FURTHER RUSSIA WILL MOVE AWAY FROM ITS BORDER THE LINE FROM WHICH 'NEO-NAZIS' CAN LAUNCH STRIKES
It hasn't been disclosed how many MLRS systems the UK will be sending, but likely it will be akin to what the US is shipping - at least a handful.
* * *
Below: US Army Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) in action...