Zelenskyy urges allies to allow Ukraine to use Western longer-range weapons inside Russia


A Ukrainian serviceman launches a reconnaissance drone for flying over positions of Russian troops, in the Zaporizhzhia region, May 26, 2024. [Reuters]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies Monday to allow Kyiv to strike military targets inside Russia with Western-supplied longer-range weapons in self-defense.

"We need to intensify our joint work with our partners to achieve more. Security and tangible coercion of Russia to peace by all means," Zelenskyy told a joint press conference with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during a visit Monday in Madrid.

"We need to work together and put pressure not only on Russia but also on our partners to give us the opportunity to defend ourselves against Russia," Zelenskyy said, adding that Ukraine needs aerial defense systems to shield itself from Russian airstrikes.

"Even those partners who are afraid to give this or that advice should understand that air defense is defense, not attack," he said, pointing out that Ukraine is hit by 3,000 Russian aerial bombs each month.

During a visit in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Monday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg echoed Zelenskyy’s remarks. He asked NATO officials to rethink their restrictions on Kyiv using Western weapons to strike inside Russia, arguing that Ukraine has a right to defend itself, including striking “legitimate targets outside of Ukraine.”

“The Russian forces are on Russian territory attacking, just over the border, Ukrainian territory. The front line is more or less the border line, and if you cannot attack the Russian forces on the other side of the front line because they are on the other side of the border, then of course you really reduce the ability of the Ukrainian forces to defend themselves.”

Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO itself is not a party to the conflict but said NATO allies have the right to help Ukraine uphold its right to self-defense by providing military support. He also maintained that Russia’s invasion that began in early 2022 is a violation of international law.

In an interview with The Economist, the NATO chief reiterated his remarks, which according to the publication, were aimed at U.S. President Joe Biden, who has resisted allowing Ukraine to strike with U.S. weapons inside Russia.


The Kremlin rebuked Stoltenberg on Monday for his comments. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the West is risking a direct confrontation with Russia and a subsequent global war should it allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with Western weapons.

When asked if NATO was approaching such a confrontation with Russia, Peskov replied, "They are not getting close; they are in it."

Russian officials warned that Ukrainian attacks deep inside Russia, including on civilian areas and even parts of Russia's nuclear defenses, are directly escalatory.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that a direct conflict between Russia and NATO over Ukraine could lead to a global war.

Reactions of European leaders have been mixed regarding allowing Ukraine to use Western weapons to strike inside enemy territory.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni opposed giving Ukraine greater flexibility on Russian targets. "I think we have to be very careful," she told Italian television on Sunday.

Earlier this month, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said during a visit to Kyiv that Ukraine had every right to use British-donated missiles to strike inside Russian territory.

Questioned on Monday, Spain's prime minister was evasive on the matter.

"We will be at Ukraine's side for as long as it takes," Sanchez said, announcing his country pledged $1.085 billion [1 billion euros] in military aid for Kyiv as part of a security pact "to enable Ukraine to strengthen its defense capabilities," as the Russians are gaining new ground.

Ukraine said that France would soon send military instructors to visit Ukrainian training centers.

"I am pleased to welcome France's initiative to send instructors to Ukraine to train Ukrainian servicemen," Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said on the Telegram messaging app after talks via video link with French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu.

On the ground

Meanwhile, in the eastern city of Kharkiv on Monday, a Russian-guided bomb killed one civilian and injured at least 10 more, Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram.

Three more people were killed, and six others were wounded in another Russian attack on Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv region on Monday, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and a local official said.

"In the afternoon, as a result of a missile attack on Snihurivka, a fire broke out in a coffee shop, a car shop and a tire service, and a blast wave damaged a self-service car wash," the service said on Telegram.

Russia also announced it had taken two more villages in eastern Ukraine, the latest in a series of gains in recent weeks.

A series of explosions hit the Russian-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine according to Russia's RIA news agency, citing Ukrainian war bloggers who posted a picture of what they described as a large fire in the city.

In western Russia, officials said Monday that Ukrainian drones hit a fuel station, killing at least one person and injuring three others.

Andrey Klychkov, regional governor of Oryol, said the attack happened in the city of Livny.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday its air defenses destroyed six Ukrainian drones over Oryol, as well as four over the Krasnodar region, one over Belgorod and another over Bryansk.

Veniamin Kondratyev, Krasnodar’s governor, reported damage to a building and a fire from drone debris falling on two villages in the region.