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Dutch Patriot air defence system deployed in Lithuania

FILE - Germany deployed Patriot long-range air defence system is seen at Vilnius airport for security during the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Saturday, July 8, 2023.
FILE - Germany deployed Patriot long-range air defence system is seen at Vilnius airport for security during the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Saturday, July 8, 2023. Copyright Mindaugas Kulbis/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Mindaugas Kulbis/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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A total of three Patriots are currently protecting Ukrainian airspace from Russian air attacks: two from Germany and one from the US.

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A Dutch Patriot air defence system has been deployed to Lithuania as part of the annual international military exercise Baltic Connection 24. This system is intended to enhance the protection of the country's population and infrastructure against aircraft, drones, and missiles.

Russia's intensifying aerial attacks on Ukrainian cities continue to highlight the growing shortage of sufficient air defence systems.

The air defence battery arrived in Klaipeda port on Saturday morning and was due to be moved to Siauliai air base, from which it will carry out tasks for the coming two weeks.

Lithuania borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad where the Polish government says Russia may have stored around 100 nuclear weapons.

Lithuanian officials describe the deployment as the first step towards practical implementation of the rotational air defence model which was agreed during the NATO summit in Vilnius last year.

"It's important in a way that we will be able to test and prepare for this rotational model, which means we know what to do and how to do it. The only thing left is to test it out", Ovidijus Pilitauskas, Commander of Lithuania's air defence battalion told reporters.

According to the Lithuanian military, the exercise itself will hone readiness to move forces and force integration, unified command and control, and execution of air defence operations.

Sweden and the Netherlands are among only seven NATO countries in Europe that field Patriot systems; the others are Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Spain, according to data provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The White House announced a €2.1 billion military aid package for Ukraine on Wednesday, which included missiles for Patriot and other air defence systems the U.S. has previously given Kyiv.

The Patriots are the most powerful system Ukraine has to defend itself from Russia airstrikes.

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