Blinken says US stance on strikes inside Russia will 'adapt and adjust as necessary'

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated on May 29 that Washington would "adapt and adjust as necessary" its restriction on allowing Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with U.S.-supplied weapons. This policy previously prevented Kyiv from using advanced U.S. weaponry like ATACMS missiles to attack Russian forces amassing near Kharkiv Oblast for their offensive earlier in May.

In recent days, increasing numbers of Ukraine's allies and NATO members have argued that Ukraine should be permitted to strike inside Russia, adding pressure on Washington to revise its stance. On May 29, representatives from Finland, Canada, and Poland issued separate statements supporting Ukraine's right to use their weapons against targets on Russian territory.

During his visit to Moldova, ahead of NATO talks in Prague, Blinken noted that the U.S. has consistently "adapted and adjusted" the support and weaponry provided to Ukraine as battlefield conditions have evolved during Russia's full-scale invasion. When asked if this could lead to a policy change regarding strikes inside Russia, Blinken confirmed the U.S. would continue to reassess and respond as necessary. "We're always listening, we're always learning, and we're always making determinations about what's necessary to make sure that Ukraine can effectively continue to defend itself," he stated.

Earlier in May, The New York Times reported that Blinken was advocating for a policy shift after a "sobering" visit to Kyiv. This prompted a "vigorous debate" within the Biden administration. The visit, which occurred shortly after Russia's new offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, significantly influenced Blinken's stance, according to the NYT.

The proposal to allow Ukrainian strikes against Russian military facilities is still in the formative stages and faces an uncertain level of support among other high-ranking officials in the Biden administration. The plan would likely exclude permission for attacks on oil refineries and other infrastructure, which Ukraine has targeted with homemade drones.

19 killed, 54 injured in Kharkiv hardware hypermarket attack. The rescue is over.

Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko announced on May 29 that search and rescue operations following Russia's attack on the "Epicenter" hypermarket in Kharkiv have concluded. The assault, which took place on May 25, resulted in the deaths of 19 people, including 12 men and seven women, among whom were a 17-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. Fifty-four individuals sustained injuries.

Russian forces reportedly targeted the Kharkiv hypermarket using two guided aerial bombs. A third unexploded bomb was subsequently discovered at the attack site.

Following the attack, sixteen relatives of the missing provided biological samples for identification purposes, and a total of 100 DNA tests were conducted. Klymenko noted the complexity of the operation, stating, "It was not easy. Special equipment was needed around the clock to search for those killed among the ashes, and they were quickly identified with the help of a DNA laboratory."

Kharkiv and its surrounding oblast are particularly susceptible to guided bomb attacks due to their proximity to the Russian border, from where such bombs can be launched from aircraft within Russian airspace. According to Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, Russia has dropped nearly 10,000 guided bombs in Ukraine since the beginning of the year.

Finland, Canada, Poland don't restrict Ukraine from striking targets in Russia with their weapons

On May 29, representatives of Finland, Canada, and Poland issued statements affirming that Ukraine can use their supplied weapons to strike targets on Russian territory.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen, in an interview with the Finnish newspaper Uusi Suomi, stated that Ukraine has the right to self-defense under the U.N. Charter and can use Finnish-supplied weapons to strike military targets in Russia. "Finland has not set any special restrictions on its aid to Ukraine, but assumes that it will be used in accordance with international law," Valtonen said.

This issue gained prominence after representatives from countries like the U.S. and Germany expressed opposition to Ukraine striking Russian targets with Western-provided weapons, citing fears of escalation.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Ukrainian allies to lift their bans on Kyiv using their weapons to strike Russia. On May 27, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a declaration supporting the removal of such restrictions.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, speaking at a press conference on May 29, stated that Ottawa does not oppose Kyiv using Canadian-supplied weapons to strike Russia. Polish Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk also voiced similar sentiments on Polish radio station Radio Zet, stating that Warsaw imposes no restrictions on Ukraine's use of Polish-supplied weapons in Russia. “Ukraine was brutally attacked by Russia, so it has the right to defend itself. In turn, we are a country that has decided to help it with this," he said.

Ukrainian officials have been intensifying their calls for allies to permit the use of Western weapons against military targets in Russia. President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized on May 26, "We see every point of concentration of Russian troops. We know all the areas where Russian missiles and combat aircraft are launched."