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A man carries his belongings past a destroyed car next to a heavily damaged apartment building on May 28, 2022, in Chernihiv, Ukraine.

A man carries his belongings past a destroyed car next to a heavily damaged apartment building on May 28, 2022, in Chernihiv, Ukraine. (Alexey Furman, Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — President Joe Biden said Monday the U.S. would not send Ukraine “rocket systems that can strike into Russia,” seemingly quashing reports the administration would consider long-range weapons in a new assistance package. Ukraine has repeatedly called for more offensive weapons as it battles Russian troops in the east.

Ukraine has been calling for weeks for longer-range multiple launch rocket, or MLRS, systems it says are needed to halt Russian advances in the east. The U.S. president told reporters that America would not send “rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”

The comment seemed to contradict previous reports the U.S. would consider offering Ukraine the systems — some of which have a range of 185 miles — as part of a new military aid package expected to be announced within days.

Meanwhile, a senior NATO official said Russia has likely lost around one third of the ground combat forces it committed on Feb. 24. Still, its troops are slowly and incrementally gaining territory in the east and the limited terrain captured is militarily important to press a sustained offensive, the official told reporters.

Russian commanders are trying to redistribute forces swiftly, often without adequate preparation, deploying more green soldiers and combat-fatigued soldiers from other battles to form reconstituted units, the official said.

Moscow also appears to be mobilizing Soviet-era T-62 battle tanks from storage, which are likely to be vulnerable to anti-tank weapons. That shows its shortage of modern combat equipment, the official said.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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