Kyiv, Ukraine: American-made Patriot missiles have arrived in Ukraine, the country’s defense minister said, providing Kyiv with a long-sought new shield against the Russian airstrikes that have devastated cities and civilian infrastructure.
The U.S. agreed in October to send the surface-to-air systems, which can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles such as those that Russia has used to bombard residential areas and the Ukrainian power grid.
“Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky becomes more secure,” Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The missiles are the latest contribution from Western allies, who have also pledged tanks, artillery and some types of fighter jets as Ukraine gears up for an expected counteroffensive.
Reznikov thanked the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, without saying how many missile systems had been delivered or when they arrived. He described possessing the system as “a dream” but said he was told in the U.S. at the time that it was “impossible.”
Ukrainian personnel have been trained on the Patriot battery, which requires up to 90 troops to operate and maintain it. “Our air defenders have mastered (the Patriot systems) as far as they could. And our partners have kept their word,” Reznikov wrote.
Earlier, Germany’s federal government website on Tuesday listed a Patriot system as among the military items delivered within the past week to Ukraine. Germany has also delivered the second of four medium-range IRIS-T air defense systems that it pledged last year, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.
In other developments Wednesday, China denied recent reports that Chinese drones have been found on Ukraine battlefields. China has insisted that it will not help arm Russia, one of its key allies.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement that Beijing maintains strict control over the export of drones in keeping with international standards preventing them from being used for non peaceful purposes.