The U.S. has not “encouraged nor enabled” Ukraine to carry out strikes against Moscow within Russian borders, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed late Tuesday.
“We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia,” he told reporters. “But the important thing is to understand what Ukrainians are living through every day with the ongoing Russian aggression against their country.”
Blinken said the U.S., along with its international partners, is determined to make sure Ukraine has what it needs to “defend themselves, to defend their territory, to defend their freedom.”
The secretary’s comments came after Russia accused Kyiv of carrying out drone strikes in three separate attacks this week – two of which hit Russian airbases hundreds of miles within Russian territory.
Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the alleged drones strikes, but it has appeared to celebrate the attacks.
The strikes – if in fact they were launched on Kyiv’s orders – show not only Ukraine’s increasing willingness to hit Russia back on its own territory, but also reflect Russia’s domestic defense vulnerabilities.
Two separate strikes on Monday hit Russia’s Engels Airbase in the southeast Saratov region and the Dyagilyaevo airfield, located near the city of Ryazan, roughly 125 miles southeast of Moscow.
Three people were reportedly killed in the strikes, and at least two Tu-95 BEAR heavy bombers were damaged in the explosions.
The U.K. defense ministry on Tuesday said Engels’s Airbase, some 370 miles from Ukrainian controlled territory, serves as Moscow’s main operating base for its Long Range Aviation in western Russia and is “home to more than 30 heavy bombers.”
Moscow reportedly relies on the bombers as an integral part of its nuclear deterrence and will likely respond to the attacks by dispersing the aircraft across various bases throughout Russia.
A third airbase was struck by a drone Tuesday in the Russian city of Kursk near Ukraine’s northeastern border, though only an oil storage tank was reportedly set ablaze.
The strikes followed warnings from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russian forces are planning “something” along with an increase in Russian aerial attacks.
Blinken said it was in the U.S.’s interest to continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia and stop any precedent that may allow aggressors to believe they can “redraw” regional borders by force.
When asked if the U.S. would work to prevent Ukraine from developing its long range strike technology Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said “No.”
“We’re absolutely not doing that,” he added.