Ukrainian forces waited less than 24 hours after getting the green light from Washington, London, Paris and Berlin to hammer targets inside Russia with precision-guided munitions fired by top-end made-in-the-USA artillery, according to reports, firing dozens of long-range rocket salvoes across the border.

Heavy Russian artillery systems, troop concentrations and at least one major bridge appeared to be the focus of the Ukrainian strikes starting in the early morning hours of Sunday.

Russian officials confirmed the attacks took place and major Russian media identified the weapons used as M42 missiles fired by the track-mounted M270 rocket launcher and the wheel-mounted HIMARS rocket launcher.

Both systems and their ammunition are made in the US. The administration of US President Joe Biden on Friday announced it would allow Kyiv’s use of the powerful weapons against targets in Russia, as Forbes reported “erasing a red line.”

Ukraine’s military on Monday confirmed cross-border strikes had taken place and military targets had been hit, but offered few details.

Russian major media confirmed Ukrainian forces used multiple salvoes of 122mm M42 rockets, some armed with cluster munitions, in the cross-border strikes. According to Kremlin-controlled information platforms, the Ukrainian attacks targeted civilian homes and businesses. Most claimed all the high-tech American missiles were shot down.

Russia’s nationally broadcast Vesti news channel showed images of alleged pieces of M42 rockets reportedly found in and around Shebekino, a town some seven kilometers north of the Russian-Ukrainian border, in Belgorod Oblast.

Vesti “war correspondent” Evgeniy Poddubniy said in a report aired by the Moscow-controlled channel on June 2 that Ukrainian strike planners had fired multiple missiles at a shopping center in an intentional attack against non-military targets, and although Russian air defenses had intercepted all incoming weapons, falling debris had injured civilians and caused moderate property damage.

The independent Russian news agency Astra contradicted that Kremlin narrative, reporting on Monday that at least one of the Ukrainian strikes had badly damaged a troop base and heavy weapons storage area in the Korochanskiy district of Belgorod city, injuring three Russian army service personnel and setting “several pieces of military equipment” on fire and destroying them.

An Iskander-2 surface-to-surface system, a launcher firing a heavy and theoretically nuclear capable missile with a half-ton warhead, was among the major Russian weapons destroyed in the strike on a Russian army base, Astra reported.

Some satellite imagery showed substantial damage across a large area of the site.

Citing official statements by Belgorod governor Vyacheslov Gladkov and others, Russian news platforms, including Astra, reported that the vice head of Korochanskiy district Igor Nechiporienko was killed by a “munition detonation,” and the regional officials Andrei Vedenin and Igor Shevlyakov were moderately injured. All had responded to the scene following reports of explosions in the vicinity. Unconfirmed reports said Nechiporienko died after a cluster munition lying on the ground blew up as he approached it.

Images appearing on Russian social media on Sunday and Monday from an industrial storage site on Belgorod’s Rzhevskoe Shosse highway showed smashed walls, twisted steel girders, burnt machinery and – according to some analysts – remains of a Russian army Iskander-2 surface-to-surface missile. The images of heavy damage to the site geolocated by Kyiv Post and others generally to the grid 50.41049425, 36.90641726, just north of the border from the Ukrainian town of Vovchansk, where heavy fighting is ongoing.

The Ukrainian military has long complained that Russian strike planners had taken advantage of a Washington-created sanctuary from Kyiv counterattacks by driving Iskander-2 systems up to the Ukrainian border with impunity and launching heavy missiles carrying a half ton of explosive at Ukrainian cities across the border. The nuclear-capable system has been a continuing high priority target for Kyiv since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Some Ukrainian milbloggers over the weekend claimed that for the first time in more than a year rocket brigades deployed in the Kharkiv sector had sufficient ammunition to hit Russian forces back. On Saturday and Sunday, in Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces, massed M42 rocket strikes also reported in the eastern Donbas and southern Kherson sectors. Images published by the Ukrainian military of piles of expended M42 rocket pods, without identifying the location, seemed intended to imply to readers that Kyiv’s long-running ammo deficit was fading.

The popular Russian milblogger Dva Mayora in a June 3 situation update to his 750,000-plus followers said Ukrainian guided rockets targeted a civilian gas station, a warehouse containing agricultural equipment, and electric power lines in Shebekino. He said Ukrainian forces attacked no military targets and offered no evidence to back up the claims. According to his account six civilians were injured.

Images, taken by a Russian bus driver or passenger of moderate holes and scoring on a Belgorod bridge and posted to local social media on Sunday, meshed with an official Ukrainian account that the overnight strikes had also targeted Russian military logistics infrastructure. The Kyiv-run Operativny ZSU official army Telegram channel said the bridge took multiple hits but damage was limited.

Images and video posted on Monday by the usually reliable Realna Viina military information platform, as well as other Ukrainian milbloggers, showed multiple images of a Russian S-300/S-400 anti-aircraft system hit and burning following an alleged M42 rocket strike delivered by a HIMARS system across the border in Russia.

Ukraine first used HIMARS/M270 systems to attack Russian key links in Russian military supply chains in June-October 2022 with strikes on the Antonivsky Bridge crossing the Dnipro River near the southern city of Kherson. Dozens of M42 hits made the span useless for military transport and forced a major retreat of Russian forces to the left (south) bank of the river.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Sunday statement widely aired on national media platforms confirmed the HIMARS strikes using launchers based in Kharkiv region had taken place, but that Washington was still banning attacks deeper into Russia with weapons more effective than the M42 rocket.

In April Ukraine received and fired US-made ATACMS missiles, a more powerful and longer-range munition launchable from both the HIMARS and M270 systems. Ukraine wants to use ATACMS missiles to hit Russian air bases launching attack planes bombing Ukrainian troops in the field, but the US is not allowing it for fear that Russia might escalate more than it has to this point.

Russian officials, led by President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly threatened the US and NATO with dire outcomes, including possibly a nuclear exchange, for giving Ukraine arms, particularly with weaponry capable of striking targets in Russia.

On May 31, less than 24 hours before Biden approved Ukrainian use of the long-range M42 rocket fired by American HIMARS and M270 systems into Russia, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev repeated the warnings.

“Western countries that allegedly ‘approved the use’ of their extended-range weapons on Russian territory (regardless of whether we are talking about old or new parts of our country) must clearly understand... NATO will have to decide how to qualify the consequences of possible retaliatory strikes,” Medvedev said in a statement on his personal Telegram channel.

“And no matter how much retired NATO farts chatter that Russia will never use non-strategic nuclear weapons against in Ukraine, and even more so in individual NATO countries... the use of tactical nuclear weapons can also be miscalculated. And this would be a fatal mistake... not intimidation or a nuclear bluff,” the former Russian leader said.

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