Moscow's ambassador to Washington was responding to media reports that the US will ship multiple launch rocket systems to Kiev
The risk of escalating the conflict in Ukraine would be considerably heightened if the US provides Kiev with long-range multiple launch rocket systems, Russia's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, warned on Friday. Earlier, several US media outlets reported that the Biden administration had given the green light to the deliveries.
When asked for comment on the claims, Antonov said the allegations have to be verified first, and that so far, no official announcement had been made by US officials.
The ambassador expressed hope that "common sense will prevail, and Washington will not take such a provocative step," adding that he and his colleagues from the Russian Foreign Ministry had repeatedly warned the US leadership that the "unprecedented pumping" of weapons into Ukraine "considerably increases risks of an escalation of the conflict."
Antonov said that if the media reports are true, and the Biden administration intends to send M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS systems to Kiev, the Ukrainian military would have the ability to strike Russian cities - which he described as unacceptable for Moscow.
By supplying more weapons to Ukraine, Antonov stated, the US would undermine the prospects for peace in the Eastern European country. He noted that Washington is becoming increasingly involved in the conflict, which could have "unpredictable consequences for global security."
The official called on the Biden administration to stop the "pointless and highly risky practice of pumping weapons" into Ukraine. Antonov also urged officials in Kiev and Washington to "accept reality," which could help "make progress on the path of diplomatic settlement."
The Russian ambassador's remarks came shortly after the New York Times ran a report, citing unnamed US officials, saying the Biden administration had given the green light to the delivery of the US-made long-range multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine. The paper said that an announcement could be made as early as next week.
The sources cited in the report say the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (M142 HIMARS) could be included in the next tranche of military aid to Ukraine, along with 155-millimeter howitzers, which Washington is already supplying to Kiev.
Defense Department press secretary John Kirby declined to comment on the alleged decision.
Similar reports also appeared on Thursday on CNN.
Ukraine has been calling on America to provide them with the rocket system, or its cousin, the M270 MLRS, which, according to Kiev, could help turn the tide in the conflict with Russia.
According to US media reports earlier this month, until recently, the Biden administration had been wary about supplying the M270 MLRS or M142 HIMARS to Ukraine, concerned that the Kremlin could see it as an escalation, due to the systems' longer range and greater destructive power compared with the weapons the US has already shipped to Kiev. Of particular concern is the possibility of these weapons being used by the Ukrainian military to hit targets in Russia, several media outlets report.
On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba tweeted, "Heavy weapons on top of our agenda, and more are coming our way," following talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The New York Times said the message could indicate a breakthrough on the topic of multiple launch rocket systems.
Although the Ukrainian military does have similar Soviet-designed systems, the HIMARS has longer range, is said to be more accurate, more versatile, and can be loaded with satellite-guided and tactical ballistic missiles. Each missile is pre-loaded into disposable launch tubes and can be quickly mounted onto the truck and discarded after firing, which arguably makes the system easier to operate compared to older, Soviet-designed models.
Since Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, the US has been actively providing military aid to Kiev.
Earlier this month, President Biden signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, with the aim of expediting the process of sending military equipment to Ukraine.
Last Saturday, Biden also approved legislation that earmarked an additional $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine.