As Ukraine takes war to Russia, US says it 'neither encouraged nor enabled' drone attacks: Live updates

In light of the three Ukrainian strikes into Russian territory in the last two days, Biden administration officials have made it clear the U.S. did not entice those attacks.

It did not deter them either.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Sunday called Russia's assault on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure "barbaric,'' said at a Tuesday news conference the administration “neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia.” He added the U.S. and its allies want to make sure Kyiv's troops have “the equipment that they need to defend themselves, to defend their territory, to defend their freedom.”

Now, if the Ukrainians find their own ways to pierce Russia's defenses -- as appears to have happened when drones hit an oil facility close to an airfield Tuesday, a day after bashing two military bases -- that's their business, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin suggested.

Asked at the news briefing whether the U.S. is trying to keep Ukraine from accessing or developing it own long-range weapons that could reach military targets in Russia, Austin responded with an emphatic no.

"We're absolutely not doing that,'' Austin said. "We're not working to prevent Ukraine from developing their own capability.''

Other developments:

►Ahead of Thursday's visit from the Finnish defense minister, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Finland needs to publicly say it’s lifting an arms embargo on Turkey to win Ankara’s approval for its membership to NATO.

►The warring parties exchanged 60 POWs each Tuesday. More than half of them on the Ukrainian side were involved in the doomed defense of the southern city of Mariupol, Reuters reported.

►Ukraine Intelligence Directorate chief Kirill Budanov dismissed talk that Russia could be running out of missiles after weeks of overwhelming strikes targeting Ukraine cities. Russia has enough weaponry for "several more massive missile strikes," he said.

►The U.S. secretly modified the advanced HIMARS rocket launchers it gave Ukraine so they can’t be used to fire long-range missiles into Russia, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a Biden administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The HIMARS have been a crucial component of Ukraine's battlefield successes in recent months.

PUTIN DRIVES MERCEDES across bombed-out Crimean bridge; Russia blames Ukraine for blasts in air bases

Americans' support for Ukraine flagging, poll says

Nearly half of Americans (47%) now say Washington should urge Kyiv to negotiate a peace deal as soon as possible, up from 38% in July, a new poll shows.

And 48% of Americans believe Washington should support Ukraine “as long as it takes,” down from 58% in July, according to the survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

"As the fighting drags into winter, the overall U.S. public is now divided on whether the United States should support Ukraine as long as it takes," the authors say.

Republicans have led the decline in support. A smaller majority of Republicans now support the United States giving military aid (55%, down from 68% in July and 80% in March) and economic assistance (50%, down from 64% in July and 74% in March). Democratic support has held relatively steady.

In October, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans won't write Ukraine a "blank check'' if they take control of the chamber, which they will in January.

Overall, Americans continue to support supplying Ukraine with arms (65%) and economic aid (66%), accepting Ukrainian refugees (73%) and sanctioning Russia (75%), the poll revealed.

For second day in a row, Ukraine appears to hit targets inside Russia

Fire erupted at a Russian airport along the Ukraine border Tuesday after an apparent drone strike, while a similar assault narrowly missed a depot 50 miles from the border as defiant Ukraine appeared intent on bringing the war to Russia.

The strikes came one day after Russian authorities said a truck exploded at one Russian airfield, killing at least three people, and a drone damaged bombers at another airfield. The bases, in Russia's Saratov and Ryazan regions, are about 300 miles from the Ukraine border.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any of the Monday blasts, but the British Defense Ministry said that "if Russia assesses the incidents were deliberate attacks, it will probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine.''

The Kremlin said it shot down two Ukrainian drones Monday. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the military would “take the necessary measures” to defend against "terror attacks" at its bases.

Russian companies ordered to reject price cap

Moscow will ban Russian companies from selling oil to countries that operate within the framework of the West’s new embargo and price cap, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Tuesday.

Novak spoke one day after an embargo on maritime Russian oil shipments to the European Union and several other nations took effect, along with a $60-a-barrel price cap for EU ships transporting oil to other nations or EU companies financing or insuring those shipments.

The international benchmark for oil sales is over $80 barrel, but Russia's struggles to find buyers had already pushed the price of its oil to about $60.

Failure to stop attacks on Russian bases draws military bloggers' ire

Anger over the failure to prevent attacks on Russian bases far from the Ukraine border has outweighed praise for the unrelenting strikes against Ukraine infrastructure among the influential Russian military blogging community, a Washington-based think tank reports. The Institute For the Study of War says the bloggers chastised the military for the security breakdown because the bases were obvious targets.

"Russian milbloggers also called on Russian military officials to authorize significant retaliation strikes against Ukraine and intensify counterterrorism measures within Russian territory," the institute said in its assessment.

Two more suspicious letters arrive at Ukrainian embassies in Europe

Two more Ukrainian embassies – in Denmark and Romania – received suspicious letters Tuesday after several similar mailings in recent days, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

The Ukrainian embassies and consulates in at least six European countries received bloody parcels with animal parts last week. On Thursday, an envelope sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid exploded, injuring an employee.

"I ask those who continue to send these packages and terrorize our embassies to relax and stop wasting time and money on postage stamps. You won't achieve anything with this," Kuleba said in a briefing, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Kuleba has said either Russia or someone who supports its cause probably sent the letters in an attempt to spread fear.

Zelenskyy visits war-battered Donbas region

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked Ukraine's Armed Forces Day by visiting with troops in the eastern Donetsk region near the front lines Tuesday. Zelenskyy, speaking from the city of Sloviansk, a key Ukrainian stronghold in the hotly contested struggle for control of the industrial Donbas, lauded the troops for their crucial role in the war and vowed to drive the Russians out of the country.

"I am honored to be with you here in Donbas today," he said. "I wish you strength to heroically defend our state, as you are doing now."

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine updates: US doesn't encourage or deter drone attacks on Russia