The Pentagon is looking at what kind of air defenses it can give to help Ukraine ward off Russian cruise missile attacks, a senior defense official said Monday.
Those systems will be part of an upcoming security assistance package to Ukraine, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday.
“I can confirm that we are in fact in the process of finalizing a package that includes advanced air defense capabilities,” Sullivan said, according to a White House pool report. “As [Biden] told President Zelenskyy, we do intend to finalize a package that includes advanced medium- and long-range air defense capabilities for the Ukrainians,” Sullivan said.
For weeks, the Pentagon has said the top military request from Ukraine has been for longer-range ground artillery to fight back against Russia’s push into the Donbas. But the country has been bombarded by cruise missiles, and two Ukrainian pilots and a Ukrainian Air Force anti-aircraft officer told reporters last week that obtaining modern systems—whether ground-based air defense systems or advanced fighter jets with radar and targeting capabilities to track and intercept incoming fire—was their top need.
Over the weekend, Russia conducted more than 60 missile strikes across Ukraine, hitting Lviv, Kviv, and Odessa, the official said, possibly in reaction to the meeting of G7 leaders in Germany, or the arrival of advanced U.S. rocket artillery systems in Ukraine over the last week.
“The aerial war is happening everywhere around the country, so we need much more air-defense aids and fighter platforms to cover,” said “Juice,” a Ukrainian pilot who spoke to reporters last week.
On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin further escalated his threats against Ukraine, saying Russia would provide nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to Belarus.
“It seems pretty irresponsible of a national leader to talk about the employment of nuclear weapons and to do so in a generally cavalier fashion,” the senior defense official said. “So we are certainly taking that seriously and have taken that threat seriously from the very beginning.”
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