The Kremlin has issued repeated warnings about arming Ukraine. The U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) have gained widespread attention for their effectiveness in the conflict, and they have been credited with turning the tide of the war.
In January, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will provide Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks. His confirmation came on the same day that Germany said it would give Ukraine 13 Leopard 2 tanks.
Biden, however, has so far opposed sending fighter jets to Kyiv , despite repeated pleas from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky , ahead of an anticipated spring offensive by Russia. The United Kingdom and Germany have also ruled out sending their military jets to Ukraine.
"All the red lines have already been crossed by Western countries," Polyanskiy said in a phone interview Tuesday. " There is already semi-direct involvement of NATO in the conflict because it's not only weaponry but it's intelligence.
"It's the situation when the targets of certain artillery systems, in particular HIMARS, these targets can be hit only with the coordination with Washington, and this was acknowledged by Ukrainian officials," Polyanskiy said.
The Russian diplomat appeared to be referring to a story in The Washington Post on February 9. It reported that three senior Ukrainian officials and a senior U.S. official said that Ukraine requires coordinates provided or confirmed by the U.S. and its allies for the vast majority of strikes using HIMARS and other similar precision-guided weapons, such as the M270 multiple-launch rocket system.
"It means that NATO is not only providing weapons but also are choosing the targets for Ukrainian strikes. So what is it but direct involvement in the conflict?" Polyanskiy said.
One senior U.S. official told the Post that coordinates and precise targeting information are provided solely in an advisory role. The official also said Ukraine does not seek U.S. approval on what targets to strike.
Polyanskiy also said there are mercenaries from Western countries fighting for Ukraine.
"We know this from the people that we capture and from the bodies that we see on the battlefield," he said. "Yes, there are no NATO troops on the ground, and NATO countries consider this to be a red line. But as far as we understand, the red lines have already been crossed."
He went on: "And it will, of course, affect our future relations with the countries that are involved. It's absolutely clear that any deliveries of weapons to the zone of conflict, of course, is like pouring oil into the fire."
Polyanskiy didn't rule out Russia retaliating militarily against the U.S. in response to such actions.
"If you are dealing with a nuclear power and if you are citing the goal of inflicting defeat to this nuclear power, you should have all the options in mind of our possible response," he said.
The Kremlin has repeatedly accused the U.S. and other NATO members of waging a proxy war in Ukraine.
Polyanskiy said that without assistance from NATO member states, Russia would have "defeated" Ukraine a "long time ago."
Newsweek has contacted the Biden administration for comment.
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