Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the United States did not encourage or enable Ukraine to strike within Russian borders. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States has neither pushed Ukraine or provided help with them striking military targets within Russian borders but it would vigorously assist Kyiv in defending itself.
In comments Tuesday with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Australian officials in Washington, D.C., Blinken said Russia remains the aggressors in the invasion that started in February and Ukraine has the right of self-defense.
"We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia," Blinken said.
"But the important thing is to understand what Ukrainians are living through every day with the ongoing Russian aggression against their country and our determination to make sure that they have in their hands, along with many other partners around the world, the equipment that they need to defend themselves, to defend their territory, to defend their freedom."
The United States and its NATO allies, while giving Ukraine money and military hardware to defend itself, have shied away from providing offensive weapons for fears it could draw them into a wide conflict against a nuclear-armed Russia.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for damaging strikes against two airfields in Russia on Monday and a third on Tuesday with the possible use of drones. Russia has responded with a barrage of missile attacks throughout Ukraine.
Blinken said he does not have any additional information about the attacks on the Russian airfields but added Moscow has consistently tried to harm civilians with its attack on Ukrainian power plants.
"To put it in context, what's happening every single day and every single night in Ukraine is strike upon strike coming from Russia and now trying to take out the civilian infrastructure that is allowing people to have heat, to have water, to have electricity -- what we've called weaponizing winter."
On the battlefield, officials said the Kherson and Donetsk regions are under shelling from Moscow Wednesday morning. Kherson region military administration leader Yaroslav Yanushevych said the region had been hit 51 times "with artillery, MLRS, tanks and mortars."
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region military administration, said three people were injured in Bakhmut, Pavlivka and Kurakhove on Tuesday. Russia for weeks has been attacking Bakhmut in hopes it will allow them to advance in Donetsk.
Ukrainian officials said, though they have so far been able to turn back attacks there and in the Donetsk cities of Verkhnokamianske, Spirne, Yakovlivka, Bila Hora, Kurdiumivka, Novobakhmutivka, Maryinka andNovomykhailivka.
Oleksandr Starukh, the Zaporizhzhia regional governor, said Russian drone and missile strikes on two villages overnight hurt a 15-year-old girl and two other people.