The Defense Department is reportedly finalizing plans to ship the Patriot missile system to Ukraine to help defend against a recent barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks that have destroyed key infrastructure throughout the country.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin still needs to sign off on the weapons transfer before it is sent to the White House for President Biden’s final approval, CNN reported.
A Patriot battery would be capable of knocking down Russian ballistic missiles — unlike other systems that Ukraine has been provided by its Western allies — and taking on targets much farther away. It is the primary surface-to-air defense system in the U.S. arsenal.
On Tuesday, Pentagon officials would not publicly confirm the reports that the defensive missiles are heading to Ukraine.
“I don’t have anything to announce today,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters. “We do maintain a robust dialogue with our Ukrainian partners, with our allies, and our international partners on Ukraine’s security assistance needs.”
Gen. Ryder said the Pentagon is examining the “full spectrum of security assistance” that is available within the inventories of the NATO and allied nations supporting Ukraine since the Russian invasion in late February.
Russia has ramped up its drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure targets even as it has pulled back ground troops and taken up defensive positions in the east and south.
Ukrainian forces claimed they shot down 13 attack drones on Wednesday, as Russia launched its first major attack on the capital Kyiv in weeks, the Reuters news agency reported.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the city’s central Shevchenkivskyi district had been hit by debris and that two administrative buildings had been damaged.
“It is obvious the Russian military feels confident only when attacking peaceful cities,” Ukraine’s defense ministry said Wednesday in a Twitter post. “Today, the Ukrainian air defense took the terrorists down a peg by shooting down 13 out of 13 Shahed 136/131 drones.”
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was pouring cold water on hopes that there will be a slowdown in the Russian campaign with winter coming on and the holiday season approaching. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this week called on the U.S. and other G-7 countries to press the Kremlin to withdraw troops, beginning this Christmas.
But Mr. Peskov said Moscow had no interest in a Christmas cease-fire or pullback.
“No, no such offers have been received from anybody. This topic is not on the agenda,” he told reporters in Moscow.