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Spain pledges missiles to Ukraine; Zelenskyy reiterates need for Patriot air defense systems

By Associated Press
Published: May 27, 2024, 3:53pm
2 Photos
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a joint news conference with Spain&rsquo;s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Monday, May 27, 2024.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a joint news conference with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul White) Photo Gallery

MADRID — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday secured from Spain a pledge of additional air defense missiles to help fight the about 3,000 bombs that he says Russia launches every month at Ukraine in the third year of the war.

However, Ukraine still urgently needs another seven U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems to stop Russia hitting the power grid and civilian areas, as well as military targets, with devastating glide bombs that wreak wide destruction, Zelenskyy said.

“If we had these modern Patriot systems, (Russian) airplanes wouldn’t be able to fly close enough to drop the (glide) bombs on the civilian population and the military,” Zelenskyy told a news conference in the Spanish capital.

Glide bombs are heavy Soviet-era bombs fitted with precision guidance systems and launched from aircraft flying out of range of air defenses. The bombs weigh more than a ton and blast targets to smithereens.

Two Patriot systems are needed to protect the northeastern Kharkiv region, where the Kremlin’s forces launched a cross-border offensive on May 10 that left Ukrainian troops reeling, Zelenskyy said. The death toll from a glide bomb attack on a Kharkiv shopping mall Saturday rose to 18, regional Gov Oleh Syniehubov said Monday, with five people still missing.

The Kharkiv push has further strained Ukraine’s already depleted army, which in recent months has been fighting Russia’s intense drive deeper into the partially occupied eastern Donetsk region. Zelenskyy said on Sunday that the Kremlin’s army is mustering at another point in Russia, farther north but close to the approximately 600-mile front line, aiming to stretch Ukraine’s depleted army thinner and crack its resistance in the area.

Zelenskyy and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez signed a bilateral security agreement that allocates 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of military aid to Ukraine in 2024, and 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) by 2027. More tanks and artillery ammunition also feature in the package.

“After more than two years (of war), Russia’s aggression continues, and that’s why it is more necessary than ever to redouble our support,” Sánchez told the joint news conference.

The Patriot is a surface-to-air guided missile system that was first deployed in the 1980s and can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles. It is expensive but is effective and sought after by armies around the world.

European countries have hesitated to send Patriot systems to Ukraine, fearing they may need them.

Spain’s King Felipe VI earlier welcomed Zelenskyy at the capital’s Barajas airport. Zelenskyy was due in neighboring Portugal today.

He had been due to visit Spain earlier this month but postponed all his foreign trips after Russia launched its offensive in the Kharkiv region.

Ukraine has repeatedly tried to strike behind Russian lines, often with drones, though Russia’s response to the technology used in unmanned vehicles has improved in recent months.