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US plans to send Ukraine anti-ship missiles to take out Russian warships, reports say

A Harpoon missile launches from guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) during UNITAS Gold. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Grieco/U.S. Navy)
May 20, 2022

The U.S. is reportedly developing plans to arm Ukraine with anti-ship missiles so they can take out Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet blocking Ukrainian ports, according to a top Ukrainian official on Thursday evening.

Anton Geraschchenko, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs adviser, said in a tweet, “The US is preparing a plan to destroy the Black Sea Fleet,” adding that Ukraine’s tactics against Russian warships “convinced” the U.S. to draw up a plan that would clear Russian assets blocking Ukrainian ports from receiving vital shipments.

“Deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons (Harpoon and Naval Strike Missile with a range of 250-300 km) are being discussed,” Geraschchenko’s tweet added.

Russia has been imposing a blockade in the Black Sea to prevent Ukraine from exporting grain. Russia has blamed Western sanctions imposed on its food and fertilizer exports, and even accused Ukraine of placing mines in the Black Sea, for its closing the ports.

After Geraschchenko’s tweet on Thursday, Reuters published an exclusive report citing officials who said the White House plans to transfer advanced anti-ship missiles to Ukraine to help it defeat the naval blockade.

The anti-ship missiles up for consideration are the Boeing Harpoon, Naval Strike Missiles made by Kongsberg and Raytheon, three U.S. officials and two congressional sources told Reuters. Two of the officials said the U.S. may also provide a Harpoon launcher from a U.S. ship to allow Ukraine to launch them from shore, which they’re currently limited from doing.

Other nations also have Naval Strike Missiles and Harpoons, and discussions have been underway for Ukraine to obtain them, however, several nations fear retaliation in the event their weapons would be used to sink Russian ships, the sources told Reuters.

A senior U.S. defense official said on Thursday that Russia was maintaining between 15 and 20 ships in the Black Sea.

Ukraine has already taken credit for using a missile to strike and sink Russia’s flagship warship, Moskva, last month.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby declined to say on Thursday whether the U.S. was planning to clear Russia’s naval blockade, but did say “this is something that the administration is … having discussions on from an interagency perspective.”

During a United Nations Security Council meeting on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of weaponizing food with the blockade.

“Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression has halted maritime trade in large swathes of the Black Sea. It has made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports as we heard [and] jeopardizing global food supplies,” Blinken said.

“The decision to weaponize food is Moscow’s and Moscow’s alone,” he added.