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Russia threatens to attack any suspected weapons shipments to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Kremlin/Released)
March 18, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated a Russian warning against countries sending weapons to Ukraine, stating any transporters it suspects of shipping weapons into Ukraine would be considered “legitimate targets” for Russia’s military to attack.

“We clearly said that any cargo moving into the Ukrainian territory which we would believe is carrying weapons would be fair game,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russia Today on Friday, ABC reported. “This is clear because we are implementing the operation the goal of which is to remove any threat to the Russian Federation coming from the Ukrainian soil.”

Lavrov’s comments are similar to those of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who on Saturday said, “We have warned the U.S. that the U.S.-orchestrated inundation of Ukraine with weapons from some countries is not just a dangerous move, but also an action that makes these convoys legitimate targets.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reacted to Lavrov’s comments during a White House press briefing on Friday.

“That’s a threat he has made before,” Psaki said. “There are no US troops operating inside Ukraine. Our forces are in NATO territory, and so are NATO forces in NATO territory.”

Psaki also said U.S. forces and NATO allies would not be the ones that transport the weapons into Ukraine.

“We will watch closely if they follow through on that threat,” she said.

The U.S. and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance had sent tons of man-portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank launchers to Ukraine in the weeks before Russia began its invasion. Those anti-aircraft and anti-tank launchers have helped Ukrainian forces inflict heavy losses against Russian troops and military vehicles in the three weeks of fighting so far.

As of Friday, Ukraine assessed Russia had lost around 14,200 troops in the fighting, along with 93 planes, 112 helicopters, 12 drones, 450 tanks, 1,448 armored vehicles, 205 artillery pieces, 43 anti-aircraft systems, 72 multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), three light speedboats and 950 other vehicles.

While the U.S. and NATO have provided weapons like Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, the alliance has been hesitant to transfer larger and more advanced weapons systems, such as MiG fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden and his administration rejected a Polish proposal to transfer its MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, in exchange for used U.S. aircraft “with corresponding operational capabilities.”

This week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a speech to Congress in which he asked the U.S. and NATO to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and air-defense systems like S-300 mobile surface-to-air missile launchers.

The Biden administration responded to Zelenskyy’s address, by announcing a new package of $800 million in new defense aid. That package would be in addition to 600 Stinger missiles, 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, unmanned aerial system tracking radars, grenade launchers, 200 shotguns, 200 machine guns and nearly 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition the U.S. has already sent.

A Biden administration official said the administration is also working to give Ukraine access to U.S.-made Switchblade drones. The drones behave as a loitering munition, flying around a target area and only attacking once a target has been found and designated for it. The explosive drones then attack their targets by diving into them and detonating themselves.