Russia has slammed the United States for sending more advanced rocket systems to Ukraine amid heightened tensions, saying Washington is adding fuel to the fire and that it does not trust Kiev not to fire them into Russia.
The new $700 million weapons package announced by US President Joe Biden, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts, and more, according to reports.
The advanced rocket systems that can precisely strike long-range targets are capable of traveling about 70 kilometers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow believes the White House “is deliberately pouring oil on the fire” by sending the weapons to Ukraine and that the US is "obviously holding the line that it will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.”
Peskov said Moscow was skeptical about Kiev not firing such rockets into Russia as the war rages on.
Biden said on Monday that he was “not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”
The Ukrainians have reportedly assured US officials they will not fire rockets into Russian territory, according to senior administration officials. Any weapons system can shoot into Russia if it is close enough to the border, the officials said.
In a New York Times guest essay published on Tuesday, the US president argued that Russia’s operation in Ukraine will end through diplomacy but Washington must provide significant weapons and ammunition to give Kiev the highest leverage at the negotiating table.
“That’s why I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine," he noted.
Russia warns of risk of direct conflict with US
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Wednesday that Washington’s arming of Ukraine with heavier weapons increases the risk of confrontation between Russia and the United States.
“Any arms supplies, which continue and escalate, increase the risk of such a development,” Ryabkov told journalists, referring to the possibility of a confrontation between Russia and the US.
He also accused Washington of stonewalling Moscow’s attempts to negotiate a legally binding deal that would have addressed Russian concerns over NATO’s expansion in Europe.
After open hostilities broke out in February, “the remnants of a healthy attitude to the situation were shattered,” he said, referring to the onset of the war in Ukraine on February 24.
Ryabkov said the US “maintains its course of what we characterized many times as an intention to wage war to the last Ukrainian, which reflects the goal of inflicting – as they say, themselves – the strategic defeat of Russia. This is unprecedented. This is dangerous.”
President Vladimir Putin of Russia declared the military campaign against Ukraine on that February day, accusing Kiev of failing to implement the terms of a peace agreement for the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Putin said one of the goals of what he called the "special military operation" was to "de-Nazify" Ukraine.
Ever since, the United States and its Western allies have been sending heavy weaponry to Ukraine and sharing intelligence with the government in Kiev, while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that Western support would indefinitely prolong the war in Ukraine.