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NATO allies disagree over Ukraine’s strikes inside Russia

The US Secretary of State has criticized Kiev’s cross-border drone attacks, while France’s foreign minister has tacitly endorsed them

The US and France, two key NATO members, have failed to see eye to eye on Ukraine’s drone strikes, which are increasingly targeting facilities deep inside Russia. Standing next to each other during a press conference in Paris on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne reacted differently to a question about the developments.

Ukraine launched drone strikes against several Russian oil facilities in March, claiming they “deliver a symbolic blow by bringing the war closer to Moscow” and disrupting the flow of fuel to the military on the front lines. The attacks continued in April, with the most recent one targeting several industrial facilities in Elabuga and Nizhnekamsk, cities in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, earlier on Tuesday.

Blinken sought to distance himself from the situation by saying that the US had “neither supported nor enabled strikes by Ukraine outside of its territory.” Sejourne, however, appeared to be backing any move Kiev made, arguing that Ukraine was merely defending itself.

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“The Ukrainian people are acting in self-defense, and we consider Russia the aggressor, and, under such circumstances, there is hardly anything else to say,” he told journalists, adding that he had no specific comments on the drone strikes. Neither of the two diplomats addressed the differences in their positions on the issue.

In late March, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky admitted that Washington had sought to stop his forces from targeting Russian oil refineries with drones. “The reaction of the US was not positive on this,” he said at that time, maintaining, however, that the US was powerless to stop the attacks.

Earlier that month, the Financial Times also reported that the White House was concerned that the Ukrainian attacks on Russian infrastructure would lead to a hike in gas prices. This could potentially damage President Joe Biden’s election bid, the paper said at the time.

Moscow responded to the Ukrainian attacks by targeting power plants across Ukraine. Zelensky then claimed that Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory were a form of deterrence, since Kiev was running out of Western-supplied air defense missiles.

 

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