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US announces new Patriot missiles for Ukraine as part of new $6 billion aid package

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and TARA COPP, Associated Press
Published: April 26, 2024, 11:40am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will provide Ukraine additional Patriot missiles for its air defense systems as part of a massive $6 billion additional aid package, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Friday.

The missiles will be used to replenish previously supplied Patriot air defense systems and are part of a package that also includes more munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and additional gear to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles and radars into Ukraine’s existing weaponry, much of which still dates back to the Soviet era.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the need for Patriots early Friday at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries gathering virtually in a Pentagon-led meeting. The meeting fell on the second anniversary of the group, which Austin said has “moved heaven and earth” since April 2022 to source millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket systems, armored vehicles and even jets to help Ukraine rebuff Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskyy said at least seven Patriot systems are needed to protect Ukrainian cities. “We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” Zelenskyy said. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

At a Pentagon press conference following the meeting, Austin said the U.S. was continuing to work with allies to resource additional Patriot systems but did not commit to sending more U.S. versions.

“It’s not just Patriot that they need, they need other types of systems and interceptors as well,” Austin said. “I would caution us all in terms of making Patriot the silver bullet.”

U.S. officials said the aid package will be funded through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which pays for longer-term contracts with the defense industry and means that it could take many months or years for the weapons to arrive. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

The new funding — the largest tranche of USAI aid sent to date — also includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, as well as Switchblade and Puma drones, counter drone systems and artillery.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group has been meeting about monthly for the past two years and is the primary forum for weapons contributions to Kyiv for the war.

Friday’s meeting follows the White House decision earlier this week to approve the delivery of $1 billion in weapons and equipment to Ukraine. Those weapons include a variety of ammunition, such as air defense munitions and large amounts of artillery rounds that are much in demand by Ukrainian forces, as well as armored vehicles and other weapons.

That aid, however, will get to Ukraine quickly because it is being pulled off Pentagon shelves, including in warehouses in Europe.

The large back-to-back packages are the result of the new infusion of about $61 billion in funding for Ukraine that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Wednesday. And they provide weapons Kyiv desperately needs to stall gains being made by Russian forces in the war.

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Bitterly divided members of Congress deadlocked over the funding for months, forcing House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to cobble together a bipartisan coalition to pass the bill. The $95 billion foreign aid package, which also included billions of dollars for Israel and Taiwan, passed the House on Saturday, and the Senate approved it Tuesday.

Senior U.S. officials have described dire battlefield conditions in Ukraine, as troops run low on munitions and Russian forces make gains.

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the U.S. has sent more than $44 billion worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts to Ukraine.

Among the weapons provided to Ukraine were Abrams M1A1 battle tanks. But Ukraine has now sidelined them in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, two U.S. military officials told The Associated Press.

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