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Ukraine may fire U.S.-provided missiles into Russia wherever it is coming under attack, Pentagon says

In this March 27, 2008, file photo, the Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo) In this March 27, 2008, file photo, the Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)
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WASHINGTON -

Ukraine's military is allowed to use longer-range missiles provided by the U.S. to strike targets inside Russia across more than just the front lines near Kharkiv if it is acting in self-defense, the Pentagon said.

President Joe Biden initially loosened the restrictions on how Ukraine could use U.S.-provided munitions to give it another option to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv from a relentless barrage of Russian missiles. Since the beginning of Russia's 2022 invasion, the U.S. had maintained a policy of not allowing Ukraine to use the weapons it provided to hit targets inside Russia for fear of further escalating the war.

Russia has been firing on Ukrainian targets from inside its border, treating its territory as a "safe zone," said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary.

"As we see those forces conducting those types of operations from across the border, we've explained Ukraine can and does have the right to fire back to defend themselves," Ryder told reporters Thursday.

The Pentagon said the additional permissions are not a new policy.

"This is not about geography. It's about common sense," said spokesman Army Maj. Charlie Dietz. "If Russia is attacking or about to attack from its territory into Ukraine, it only makes sense to allow Ukraine to hit back against the forces that are hitting it from across the border."

"Additionally, they can use air defense systems supplied by the United States to take Russian planes out of the sky, even if those Russian planes are in Russian airspace, if they're about to fire into Ukrainian airspace," Dietz said in a statement.

The White House also announced Thursday that it is rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine by redirecting shipments planned for other allied nations, as Washington scrambles to counter increased Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

The U.S. was already sending Ukraine a consistent stream of interceptors for its air defense systems, including for the Patriot missile batteries and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS.

National security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that more was urgently needed as Russia's military has accelerated missile and drone attacks against cities and infrastructure centers ahead of this winter. The rushed shipments are expected to include hundreds of Patriot missiles.

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