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Austin calls on countries that have Patriot air defense systems to transfer them to Ukraine

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on April 30 appealed to the partners of the United States to transfer Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine, which has repeatedly requested more of the air defense systems to help protect Ukrainian cities and infrastructure from Russian attacks.

“There are countries that have Patriots, and so what we’re doing is continuing to engage those countries,” Austin told the House Armed Services Committee. “I have talked to the leaders of several countries…myself here in the last two weeks, encouraging them to give up more capability or provide more capability.”

Austin did not identifying the countries, but among those that are known to possess the systems are Spain, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told NATO members last week that his country needs a minimum of seven additional Patriot air defense systems to counter Russian air strikes.

Austin told the committee that he speaks with Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov every week and “he is well aware of what we are doing, how we are engaging other countries, looking for additional capabilities around the world.”

Austin’s testimony came after two people were killed and six wounded in a Russian strike on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, regional head Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram as an air-raid alert was announced for most of the country.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said separately that two infrastructure targets were hit during the strike. The air-raid alert was declared for the regions of Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Donetsk.

A day earlier a Russian missile attack in the Ukrainian port of Odesa killed at least five people and wounded several others, including Serhiy Kivalov, a former lawmaker for the pro-Russian Party of Regions, who founded a law school in the Gothic-style building that was struck.

Hours before the strike Zelenskiy called on the West to speed up deliveries of desperately needed weapons for depleted and outgunned Ukrainian troops.

Zelenskiy made his comments in Kyiv at a joint news conference with visiting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. He said that small quantities of weapons and ammunition had begun arriving in Ukraine, but he urged that the deliveries gain momentum faster in order to be useful.

“Timely support for our army. Today I don’t see anything positive on this point yet. There are supplies, they have slowly begun, but this process needs to be sped up,” he said.

“Promptness in supply literally means a stabilization of the front line…. Together we must disrupt the Russian offensive.”

An influx of weapons is expected to flow after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a long-delayed $61 billion military aid package last week. Biden said the package would include air defense munitions to help Ukraine protect its cities and infrastructure, artillery shells, and long-range missile systems.

Stoltenberg, visiting the Ukrainian capital for the third time since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, acknowledged “serious delays in support have meant serious consequences on the battlefield.”

“For months, the U.S. was unable to agree a package and European allies have been unable to deliver ammunition at the scale we promised,” he added. “Ukraine has been outgunned for months and forced to ration its ammunition…. More support is on the way.”