Ukrainian forces used US-supplied long-range ATACMS missiles for the first time, inflicting heavy damage on two airfields in Russian-occupied areas, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying on Tuesday (17 October) that the weapons had “proven themselves”.
Several Russian pro-war military bloggers claimed that ATACMS, which have a maximum range of around 300 kilometers (186 miles), were used to strike Russian-controlled airfields in southeastern Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday decried Washington’s supply of ATACMS long-range missiles to Ukraine as a “mistake” that would not fundamentally change the situation on the battlefield.
The Ukrainian military had issued reports throughout the day about successful, high-precision strikes on airfields near Luhansk in Ukraine’s east and in Berdiansk in the south, on the Sea of Azov, both under Russian control.
“Today, special thanks to the United States. Our agreements with President Biden are being implemented. Very accurately – ATACMS proved themselves,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
The decision by the United States to send ATACMS to Ukraine was grave mistake that will have serious consequences, Russia’s ambassador to the US said on Wednesday.
“The consequences of this step, which was deliberately hidden from the public, will be of the most serious nature,” Russian agencies cited the envoy, Anatoly Antonov, as saying.
“The United States continues to push for a direct clash between NATO and Russia.”
Ukraine had repeatedly asked the US administration for ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems). Kyiv pledged not to use them inside Russia’s territory but said the powerful weapons would alter the course of the 20-month-old war.
Deploying the weapons would allow Ukrainian forces to disrupt previously unreachable supply lines, air bases and rail networks used by Russia in occupied territories, senior officials said.
Ukrainian Special Forces, without initially mentioning the ATACMS, said that nine helicopters, an air defence missile launcher, runways and other equipment had been destroyed, and heavy losses inflicted on Russian forces.
Zelenskyy’s comments mark the first confirmed use in Ukraine of the ATACMS, which can fly up to 190 miles (310 km). The country’s Defence Ministry promised on X, formerly Twitter, that there would be “more news to come”.
“As you can see, it is now possible to hit targets impeccably, with great precision, giving the enemy no chance,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat told national television.
Kyiv’s Western partners have been careful about supplying long-range missiles needed for its four-month-old counteroffensive, fearing it would provoke the Kremlin. It is not clear how many ATACMS missiles Ukraine has.
ATACMS are designed for “deep attack of enemy second-echelon forces,” a US Army website says.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said a new chapter of the war had begun.
“There are no more safe places for Russian troops within the … internationally recognized borders of Ukraine,” he wrote on X.
Russian military bloggers commented on the attacks during the day, with Telegram channel Fighterbomber saying Russian forces had suffered losses of personnel and equipment in strikes carried out with ATACMS.
Citing two unidentified US officials, CNN said Washington had secretly delivered ATACMS to Kyiv. The Wall Street Journal said Ukraine had fired the ATACMS for the first time on Tuesday.
Since starting a counteroffensive in June, Kyiv has frequently attacked military targets in Russian-occupied areas, but it has failed to liberate significant territory from Russian occupation.
Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern group of forces, told national television that there had been no letup in Russia’s week-old assault on the devastated town of Avdiivka in the east, with Ukrainian forces repelling 10 attacks.
Shtupun also said Ukrainian forces advancing southward to the Sea of Azov had registered “partial success” west of Verbove, one of a cluster of villages it is trying to capture.
The Ukrainian military said Russia was hoping to advance as far as possible towards the town of Kupiansk in northeastern Ukraine before winter.
© 2023, GDC. © GDC and www.globaldefensecorp.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to www.globaldefensecorp.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.