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US considers sending Patriot air defence system to Ukraine

US considers sending Patriot air defence system to Ukraine
December 14, 2022 Reuters

KYIV (Reuters) - Kyiv's air defence systems shot down 10 Russian drones on Wednesday, the city's mayor said, while the United States is close to finalising plans to send its Patriot air defence system to Ukraine in a potentially pivotal move in the conflict.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that air-defence systems shot down 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones and that there were explosions in the central Shevchenkivskyi district.

The Kyiv administration said that according to preliminary information, two administrative buildings in Shevchenkivskyi were damaged and information about potential casualties was being clarified.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the information.

Washington could announce a decision as soon as Thursday on providing the Patriot, two officials told Reuters on Tuesday. The Patriot is considered one of the most advanced US air defence systems and is usually in short supply, with allies around the world vying for it.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned NATO against equipping Kyiv with Patriot missile defences, and it is likely the Kremlin will view the move as an escalation.

The Patriot system would help Ukraine defend against waves of Russian missile and drone attacks that have pounded the country's energy infrastructure.

The General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces morning report on Wednesday highlighted the need for air defence systems throughout the country.

It said in the past 24 hours in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions "the enemy launched 1 air and 11 missile strikes, 3 of them on the civilian infrastructure...(and) launched more than 60 attacks from multiple rocket launchers".

Gaining Patriot air defence capability would be "very, very significant" for the Kyiv government, said Alexander Vindman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and onetime leader of Ukraine policy at the White House.

"These are going to be quite capable of dealing with a lot of different challenges the Ukrainians have, especially if the Russians bring in short-range ballistic missiles" from Iran.

The Pentagon declined comment. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.

Kyiv held high-level military talks on Tuesday with Washington, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office said. The United States has given Ukraine $19.3 billion in military assistance since Russia's invasion on Feb. 24.