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Kremlin Says Any New Longer-Range US Rockets Will Escalate Ukraine Conflict

Kremlin Says Any New Longer-Range US Rockets Will Escalate Ukraine Conflict

Wednesday, 1 February, 2023 - 10:00
This photograph taken on January 31, 2023, shows a destroyed building in Bogoyavlenka (alternatively spelled Bohoyavlenka) on January 31, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that longer-range rockets reportedly included in an upcoming package of military aid from the United States to Ukraine would escalate the conflict but not change its course.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told reporters that there were no plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with US President Joe Biden.

The US package of military aid, worth $2.2 billion, is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time, two US officials briefed on the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

Such rockets would allow Ukraine - which has said it plans to retake all of its territory by force, including annexed Crimea - to strike deeper into Russian-held territory.

Asked about the new aid package, the Kremlin's Peskov said:

"Yes, this is a direct way to escalate tensions, to increase the level of escalation, we can see that. It requires us to make additional efforts, but - once again - it will not change the course of events. The special military operation will continue."

Putin sent tens of thousands of Russian troops into Ukraine in February last year. He has said the operation was needed to protect Russia's own security and to stand up to what he has described as Western efforts to contain and weaken Moscow.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of waging an illegal war designed to expand its territory.

‘Bounty payments’

The Kremlin also welcomed a Russian company's offer of "bounty payments" for soldiers who destroy Western-made tanks on the battlefield in Ukraine, saying it would spur Russian forces to victory.

The Russian company Fores this week offered 5 million roubles ($72,000) in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture US-made Abrams or German Leopard 2 tanks in Ukraine.

Peskov said Russian troops would "burn" any Western tanks that were delivered to Ukraine, adding the bounties were extra encouragement for Russian soldiers.

"This testifies to the unity and the desire of everybody to contribute as best they can, one way or another, directly or indirectly, to achieving the goals of the special military operation," he added.

"As for these tanks, we have already said they will burn. With such incentives, I think there will be even more enthusiasts."

The Western-made tanks - far more advanced than anything used by Ukraine or Russia in the conflict so far - are unlikely to arrive at the frontlines in eastern and southern Ukraine for several months.

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