Saturday, June 15

Ukraine Said to Use Powerful New Missiles for First Time

Ukraine’s forces struck two air bases in Russian-held territory on Tuesday with American-supplied long-range missiles that were one of the last major weapons systems that Kyiv had sought from the United States, according to two American officials and a Ukrainian parliamentarian who posted about the attack on social media.

They were the first strikes with a weapon known as ATACMS — for advanced, long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems — that President Biden was long reluctant to provide for fear it could escalate the conflict with Russia. But Mr. Biden told President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a visit to the White House in September that he had agreed to provide the missiles, albeit a version limited in range, according to officials familiar with the conversation.

The version of the ATACM missile sent to the Ukrainians, in what officials said were small numbers, is equipped with cluster munitions — smaller bomblets that can do damage over a wide area.

“ATACMS is already with us,” a Ukrainian lawmaker, Oleksiy Goncharenko, wrote Tuesday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. He said that an airfield in the Russian-controlled city of Berdiansk “was hit by them.”

“Thanks to our partners!” he wrote.

A photograph from the South Korean Defense Ministry showing a U.S. Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) firing during a joint drill in 2017.Credit…South Korean Defense Ministry, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Ukrainian attacks, on a base near the city of Berdiansk, in the south, and another base in Luhansk, in the east — widely reported by Russian military bloggers, but not acknowledged by Russian authorities — destroyed nine helicopters, an ammunition depot and military equipment, along with damaging runways, according to Ukraine’s special operations forces. Their claims could not be independently verified.

For more than a year after the beginning of the war, the White House deflected Mr. Zelensky’s demands for the weapons. Part of the concern was that Ukraine could use the missiles to strike targets deep inside Russia, and for a while American officials believed the use of ATACMS could cross one of the “red lines” that would lead Russia to consider using a tactical nuclear weapon.

But that thinking has now changed. Most ATACMS have a range of about 190 miles, or about 40 miles more than the minimum range of the French SCALP missiles and British Storm Shadows that were delivered to Ukraine earlier this year. The American missile will add to that arsenal, but its range is limited to less than the British Storm Shadow.