France will join Britain in supplying Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles, which can travel 250 km (155 miles), a move that allows Ukrainian forces to hit Russian troops and supplies deep behind front lines, French officials said on Tuesday.
Emmanuel Macron said he had decided to boost military aid to Ukraine to help its counteroffensive as the French President arrived at a summit of the 31-member NATO alliance in Lithuania.
"I have decided to increase deliveries of weapons and equipment to enable the Ukrainians to have the capacity to strike deeply," Macron said, while declining to say how many missiles would be sent.
A French diplomatic source said they were talking about 50 SCALP missiles produced by European manufacturer MBDA.
The missiles would come from existing French military stocks, a French military source told reporters, adding that it would be a "significant number."
Paris has previously supplied Mistral shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine and Crotale short-range anti-air missiles, which are used to intercept low-flying missiles and aircraft.
US has yet to agree to supply longer-range missiles
Ukraine has been asking for months for longer-range missiles but the United States, its main supplier, has yet to agree to supply them.
Britain said in May it was supplying the Franco-British missile, produced by MBDA, that it calls the Storm Shadow.
The French version, known as SCALP, has a range of about 250 km, three times as far as Ukraine's existing missile capacities.
The missiles were being integrated into Ukrainian Russian-made warplanes, the French military source said.
The source dismissed suggestions that the missiles were an escalation, saying their use was proportional and noting that Russia was using cruise missiles launched from thousands of kilometers away.
"It rebalances things and enables Ukraine to hit deep into Russian lines and can penetrate tougher targets," he said.
Macron said the delivery would adhere to France's policy of assisting Ukraine to defend its territory, implying that Paris had received assurances from Kyiv that the missiles would not be fired into Russia.
"There are guarantees for (restricting) the use of these missiles to internationally-recognized borders of Ukraine," the military source said.