Ukraine’s desperate plea ‘give us the damn Patriots’. Patriot missile is the gold standard of all missile defense- Dmytro Kuleba

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured) in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 19, 2022. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Ukraine has doubled on demands for U.S.-made Patriot air defence systems, pressing for vital, sophisticated assets to shield its cities at a moment of deepening concern over the future of military aid destined for Ukraine.

“Give us the damn Patriots,” Kyiv’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told Politico in an interview published on Monday.

Ukraine is thought to have a handful of Patriot batteries, considered the gold standard of air defences. The exact number and locations are unknown, but Ukraine is believed to have batteries stationed around major cities, like Kyiv, and close to the front lines.

According to Ukraine’s military, Kyiv has used its Patriots to take out a slew of Russian aircraft, and the systems were credited with intercepting a number of Russia’s supposedly unstoppable Kinzhal missiles, which the Kremlin has describes as hypersonic weapons.

The Raytheon-designed Patriot is a surface-to-air system designed to shoot down ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as aircraft and drones, from long distances. It is considered one of the U.S. military’s most advanced air defense systems and Patriots are also stationed on NATO’s eastern flank, close to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Kremlin claimed last week that it had destroyed five Patriot launchers since the start of 2024. Each Patriot battery has several launchers that contain and fire missiles. Reports had suggested earlier in March that a Russian missile strike took out two Patriot launchers traveling with a Ukrainian convoy.

Ukraine has been unwavering in its calls for more air defense systems to fend off frequent, hammering Russian missile strikes. In the early hours of Friday, Russia launched 151 strikes—using ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as strike drones— across Ukraine, according to Kyiv’s air force.

With Moscow bombarding Ukraine with renewed missile barrages, these demands have been growing as the future of military aid from Ukraine’s single-largest backer, the U.S., hangs in the balance. On March 12, the Pentagon unveiled $300 million in military aid to prop up Kyiv’s “immediate air defense, artillery, and anti-tank requirements,” but called the package a “short-term stop gap” in lieu of fresh funding from Congress.

“Patriots and other systems are now needed in Ukraine, for our cities and communities,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, reiterated last week. “The partners have the air defense systems that are needed for this, and they can help. It is worth doing so.”

“If we had enough air defense systems, namely Patriots, we would be able to protect not only the lives of our people, but also our economy from destruction,” Kuleba said.

Ukraine’s desperate need for more air defense systems, and the interceptor missiles they use, is unlikely to abate. On Monday, Ukrainian media reported Russia had fired two Zircon, or Tsirkon, hypersonic missiles at the country.

The Zircon, like the Kinzhal, is one of Russia’s “next generation” weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018. Ukraine said in February that it had registered the first use of Zircon missiles against Ukrainian targets.

At the start of 2024, NATO announced a $5.5 billion deal to buy 1,000 Patriot missiles for the alliance.

“Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians, cities and towns show how important modern air defenses are,” NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said at the time.

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