Because of battlefield casualties and preparations for a new fight in eastern Ukraine, Russia has told the Biden administration that it must cease delivering sophisticated weaponry to Ukrainian forces or face “unpredictable repercussions,” according to American sources.
A growing number of Russian warnings, accentuated by a formal protest letter handed on Tuesday, indicated growing worry in Moscow that the weapons were gravely compromising Russia’s fighting capabilities.
The existence of the letter was revealed at the same time that the Kremlin was delivering weaponry, including assault helicopters, to the Russian border with eastern Ukraine in preparation for the next phase of its two-month-old invasion of the nation.
Over the course of the war, the United States has armed the Ukrainians with more heavy weaponry — including 155-mm howitzers — as the battle has escalated, and the administration unveiled a fresh $800 million armament deal this week.
When the conflict started in February, the government was concerned that such armament might needlessly irritate the Soviet Union. However, in response to criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and members of Congress from both parties, the administration has chosen to send some of the kind of heavy weaponry it believes Ukraine will need in the next phase of the fight.
Because of unusually strong Ukrainian opposition and the exposure of Russia’s conventional armed forces vulnerabilities, the Russians issued their warnings at a critical time in their invasion.
During the previous week, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin openly implied that Russia’s ambitions in the Ukraine conflict were restricted to controlling the Donbas, a region of eastern Ukraine bordering Russia where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting for eight years.
Mr. Putin has stated that he does not consider Ukraine to be a country. Russia’s objectives when its military invaded on Feb. 24 appeared to be far more ambitious. The Russian military planned to besiege and capture the capital, Kyiv, in the northern part of the country, cutting Mr. Zelensky’s government off from the rest of the former Soviet republic.
That tactic failed, and Russian soldiers were forced to withdraw from the area last month. They have also been unable to entirely control the vital southeast port of Mariupol, despite persistent bombing that has reduced the once-thriving city of 450,000 people to a wasteland of death and the devastation caused by war’s terrible atrocities.
An American defence official said Friday that Russia’s Black Sea flagship Moskva, a missile cruiser that went down Thursday, had been struck by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, rather than being crippled by an accident during a storm, as the Kremlin had claimed. The incident appeared to be yet another military embarrassment for Russia, which has attempted to cover it up.
Aside from being a humiliating defeat, the loss of the Moskva might have major consequences for any Kremlin ambitions to launch an amphibious attack on Ukraine’s southern shore. As a result of the loss, concerns have been made concerning Russian control of Ukraine’s airspace and the Moskva’s apparent inability to avoid or intercept the Neptunes with her own defensive systems, despite the fact that it is a capable cruiser with advanced defence systems.
According to two administration officials, the Russian diplomatic complaint letter, known as a démarche, was delivered via the usual procedures and was not signed by Mr. Putin or other senior Russian officials, as is customary. However, according to one administration official, it was an indication that the weapons supplied by the United States were having an impact on the situation.
Officials from the United States said the tone of the memo was similar with a series of public Russian threats, including a warning to attack weapons delivery as they crossed into Ukraine.