The United Kingdom said Thursday it has started supplying Ukraine with long-range “Storm Shadow” missiles to use in its fighting against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long requested long-range missiles to aid his country’s defensive efforts, although Western allies have been reluctant to fulfill his wishes because of fears that the war could escalate.
The Kremlin has also said that long-range missiles could lead to escalation. When discussing the possibility of the United States giving Ukraine long-range weapons, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last September that such a move would be interpreted as crossing a “red line” that could result in a wider military response.
On Thursday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told lawmakers in the House of Commons that Storm Shadow missiles “are now going into or are in” Ukraine, but he did not say how many Britain was planning to send.
Saudi General Saleh Ali al-Muhaya, right, chief of staff of the Saudi Royal Air Force, looks at a model of a Storm Shadow missile at the Dubai Air Show on November 21, 2005. The U.K. has begun supplying Ukraine with the long-range Storm Shadow missiles.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the news about Storm Shadow missiles being supplied to Ukraine. Peskov said that the Kremlin is assessing the delivery of the weapons “very negatively” and that the move “will require a relevant response from our military, which, of course, will make appropriate decisions from a military point of view,” according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.
Storm Shadow missiles have a range of more than 250 kilometers (155 miles). Though this range is slightly lower than the 185-mile capability of the U.S. Army’s Air-to-Air Combat Missile System, which Zelensky has requested, it would nevertheless be enough of a range for Ukraine to strike behind the front lines at targets in areas such as Russian-occupied Crimea.
Earlier this year, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told EU officials that his country would not use longer-range missiles on targets within Russian territory.
“If we could strike at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, the Russian army wouldn’t be able to provide defense and will have to lose,” he said. “Ukraine is ready to provide any guarantees that your weapons will not be involved in attacks on the Russian territory.”
Ukraine officials have not said that such missiles would not be used in Crimea, however, as they consider the region part of Ukraine and Zelensky has repeatedly said regaining control of the peninsula is one of his priorities.
In February, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said the U.S. supported Ukraine striking Russian military sites in Crimea, which she called “legitimate targets.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment.