US to provide Patriot missile system to Ukraine
WASHINGTON: The United States said on Wednesday it would provide Ukraine with the advanced Patriot air defence system to help counter Moscow’s relentless aerial attacks.
The system is part of $1.85 billion in security assistance unveiled in parallel with a visit to Washington by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his first trip outside the country since Russia invaded in February.
The announcement is a significant victory for Kyiv, which had repeatedly pushed Washington for the Patriot system, and a strong sign of US support for Ukraine.
“Today’s assistance for the first time includes the Patriot Air Defence System, capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided air defense systems,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The security assistance package features one Patriot battery, which consists of a command centre, a radar station to detect incoming threats, and missile launchers.
The package also includes tens of thousands of rounds of artillery, rocket and tank ammunition, mortar systems, grenade launchers and body armor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the Patriot announcement, saying the system “will strengthen our air defense significantly.”
“This is a very important step to create a secure air space for Ukraine,” he told journalists through a translator at a news conference alongside President Joe Biden at the White House.
Russia’s former space chief injured
The former head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said on Thursday he was injured by shelling in Donetsk, a Russian-controlled city in eastern Ukraine, and will require surgery.
Rogozin is an ardent supporter of President Vladimir Putin’s February offensive in Ukraine and is leading a team of military advisers to pro-Russian forces fighting alongside Moscow’s troops.
The outspoken official — known for his Twitter spats with US billionaire and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk — was removed from his position at Roscosmos in July.
Rogozin said on his Telegram channel that he suffered a back “injury” after a metal fragment was lodged above his right shoulder blade and will be needing surgery.
The incident took place on Wednesday evening in a hotel in Donetsk, where Rogozin was staying with a local official and a group of advisers, TASS news agency reported.
Russian investigators said that the strike, which had left others dead and injured, was carried out with “high-precision munitions, presumably… a Caesar” French artillery system.
Rogozin said the incident took place during a “work meeting” in the restaurant of the hotel, while Russian state news channel Rossiya 24 TV said the former space chief was celebrating his 59th birthday.
The channel broadcast images of the heavily damaged hotel and restaurant with parts of the roof destroyed and debris scattered around the rooms and outside in the garden.
Rogozin said he had regularly stayed in this hotel during trips to the Donetsk region, which Russia claimed to have annexed in September along with three other Ukrainian regions, despite widespread condemnation from the West.
Blast kills official
A car blast on Thursday killed an official in the Russian-controlled village of Lyubimivka in southern Ukraine, Moscow-installed authorities said, the latest in a series of attacks against Russian-linked officials.
“Today Andrei Nikolayevich Shtepa, a sincere patriot of his native land, died tragically as a result of a car explosion,” authorities said on Telegram, blaming “Ukrainian terrorists” for the death.
Lyubimivka is located on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river, which is occupied by Moscow’s troops after they retreated from Kherson city last month rendering the river a new frontline.
This is the latest in a series of targeted attacks against Russia-installed officials in occupied areas.
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2022