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US announces Patriot missiles for Ukraine as part of aid package

FILE - A U.S.-made Patriot missile is launched during an annual exercises in Ilan County, 80 kilometers (49 miles) west of Taipei, Taiwan, on July 20, 2006.
FILE - A U.S.-made Patriot missile is launched during an annual exercises in Ilan County, 80 kilometers (49 miles) west of Taipei, Taiwan, on July 20, 2006. Copyright Anonymous/AP2006
Copyright Anonymous/AP2006
By Euronews with AP
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Zelenskyy said at least seven Patriot systems are needed to protect Ukrainian cities.

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Washington will provide Ukraine additional Patriot missiles for its air defence systems as part of a massive €5.6 billion additional aid package, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Friday.

The missiles will be used to replenish previously supplied Patriot air defence systems. 

They are part of a package that also includes more munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) and additional gear to integrate Western air defence launchers, missiles and radars into Ukraine's existing weaponry - much of which still dates back to the Soviet era.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the need for Patriots early Friday at the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries gathering virtually in a Pentagon-led meeting. 

US Defence Secretary Austin said the group had “moved heaven and earth” since April 2022 to source millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket systems, armoured vehicles and even jets to help Ukraine rebuff Russia's invasion.

Zelenskyy said at least seven Patriot systems are needed to protect Ukrainian cities. 

“We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” he said. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

At a Pentagon press conference following the meeting, Austin said the US would work with allies to stock additional Patriot systems but did not commit to sending more US batteries.

Military policemen guard an exhibition of tanks, APCs and guns of Ukrainian armed forces captured during the fighting displayed near the World War II museum on Poklonnaya Hill
Military policemen guard an exhibition of tanks, APCs and guns of Ukrainian armed forces captured during the fighting displayed near the World War II museum on Poklonnaya HillDmitry Serebryakov/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

“It's not just Patriot that they need, they need other types of systems and interceptors as well,” Austin said. “I would caution us all in terms of making Patriot the silver bullet.”

US officials said the aid package would be funded through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which pays for longer-term contracts with the defence industry and means it could take many months or years for the weapons to arrive. 

Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

The new funding — the largest tranche of US aid sent to date — includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Switchblade and Puma drones, counter-drone systems and artillery.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group has been met monthly for the past two years and is the primary forum for weapons contributions to Kyiv's war effort. 

Friday's meeting follows the White House decision earlier his week to approve the delivery of more weapons and equipment to Ukraine. 

Arms include a variety of ammunition, such as air defence munitions and large amounts of artillery rounds that are much in demand by Ukrainian forces, as well as armoured vehicles and other weapons.

That aid, however, will get to Ukraine quickly because it is being pulled off Pentagon shelves, including in warehouses in Europe.

The large back-to-back packages result from the new infusion of about €61 billion in funding for Ukraine passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Wednesday. 

Bitterly divided members of Congress deadlocked over the funding for months, forcing House Speaker Mike Johnso to cobble together a bipartisan coalition to pass the bill. 

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The €88.8 billion foreign aid package, which included billions of dollars for Israel and Taiwan, was passed by the House on Saturday, and the Senate approved it Tuesday.

Senior US officials have described dire battlefield conditions in Ukraine, as troops run low on munitions and Russian forces make gains.

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the US has sent more than €41.1 billion worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts to Ukraine.

Among the weapons provided to Ukraine were Abrams M1A1 battle tanks. 

But Ukraine has now sidelined them in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, two US military officials told reporters.

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