US reveals more details of Patriot handover to Ukraine

WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) – The United States will provide $1.85 billion in additional military assistance for Ukraine, including a transfer of the Patriot Air Defense System, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

The announcement came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Washington to meet President Joe Biden and address Congress in his first known overseas trip since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days ago.

The Biden administration has confirmed the US will provide Ukraine with the Patriot air defense system. Washington also revealed Ukrainian troops would be trained in the use of the sophisticated weapon in a third country, without elaborating on where exactly it would take place.

On Wednesday, the White House released a transcript of a Q&A session with the media which had taken place the previous day via teleconference, and was devoted to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s upcoming visit to Washington.

Taking part in the event was an unnamed White House staffer, described in the document simply as a “senior administration official.”

Speaking to journalists, he revealed President Biden would “announce a significant new package of nearly $2 billion of security assistance” for Kiev during the meeting of the two leaders. Among the weapons to be provided is a Patriot missile battery, which the official singled out as a “very important new capability.”

He added that the US “will train Ukrainian forces on how to operate the Patriot missile battery in a third country.” The official also stressed that on top of the said system, the Biden administration will continue to supply other air defense equipment as well.

Several media outlets, including the Associated Press and the BBC, had previously reported that the training could take several weeks and “is expected to be done at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany.”

Information suggesting that the US was planning to hand over Patriots to Ukraine appeared in the media last week. Kiev has been requesting this particular air defense system since Russia intensified its missile and drone strikes on Ukraine’s power grid and critical infrastructure in early October.

Back in March, the US military said it would not provide Patriots to the eastern European country as it would require significant training. There have also been reports that the Biden administration was wary such a move could lead to a potentially unpredictable escalation.

Commenting on reports claiming that Patriots could find their way to Ukraine after all, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said last Wednesday that Russian forces would target the US-supplied missile systems if they were deployed in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in turn, branded the potential handover of the Patriots to Ukraine as “another provocative move by the US,” adding that it could entail “possible consequences.”

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