NATO chief calls for discussion on restrictions for arms supplied to Ukraine

NATO Parliamentary Assembly Spring Session in Sofia

PRAGUE (Reuters) -NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday said the "time has come" for members of the military alliance to re-consider some of the restrictions attached to the use of weapons they supplied to Ukraine in support of the country's fight against Russia.

"Allies are delivering many different types of military support to Ukraine and some of them have imposed some restrictions on the use of these weapons (...) These are national decisions," Stoltenberg said in a speech delivered in Prague ahead of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting.

"But I think that in light of how this war has evolved (...) the time has come to consider some of these restrictions, to enable the Ukrainians to really to defend themselves."

While Ukrainian leaders urged governments from Berlin to Washington to ease the restrictions on supplied weapons, western countries appeared increasingly divided in recent weeks on whether or not the Ukrainian military should be allowed to strike targets on Russian soil.

Some of Ukraine's allies such as Britain, the Baltic states and Denmark have argued this is part of legitimate self-defence against an invasion, while others have said their weapons can only be used in Ukraine, reflecting fears that striking inside Russia would drag the West into the conflict.

The Belgian prime minister this week said the F-16 fighter jets his country planned to start sending to Ukraine this year could only be used within Ukraine's borders.

Germany attached similar caveats to its delivery of heavy armoury, including Leopard tanks.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Tassilo Hummel)