KYIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Russia’s foreign ministry warned Thursday that if the US government supplies sophisticated air defense missiles to Ukraine, those systems and their accompanying crews would be “legitimate targets” for the Russian military , a threat so formidable that Washington quickly dismissed it.
The exchange of statements reflects a rise in tensions between Russia and the United States amid fighting in Ukraine, which has been raging for nearly 10 months.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the United States has “practically become a party” by providing Ukraine with weapons and military training. He added that if reports of Washington’s intention to send a battery of Patriot surface-to-air missiles turn out to be true, it would be “a new provocation by the United States” and would end its participation in hostilities “with potential consequences”. will expand.
“Any weapon systems delivered to Ukraine, including the Patriot, as well as the personnel operating them are and will remain legitimate priority targets for the Russian Armed Forces,” Zakharova said.
When asked about Russia’s warning, Pentagon spokesman Air Force General Pat Ryder responded that the United States “will not allow Russia’s comments to dictate the security assistance we provide to Ukraine.”
“I find it ironic and highly revealing that the authorities of one country brutally attacked its neighbor – in an unprovoked and illegal aggression, through a campaign that deliberately targeted innocent civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure. destroys — chooses to use words like ‘provocation.’ to describe defense systems whose purpose is to save lives and protect civilians,” Ryder said.
Washington is preparing to approve sending a battery of Patriot missiles to Ukraine, US officials said Tuesday, finally acceding to the Ukrainian government’s urgent request for more sophisticated weapons to shoot down Russian missiles. Critical infrastructure has been disabled. It can be officially announced in the next few days.
The Patriot battery requires up to 90 elements to operate and maintain, and for months the United States had refused to provide the complex system because President Joe Biden’s administration says sending US troops to Ukraine is not an option. Is.
Even without the presence of US troops to train Ukrainians in the use of the system, concerns remain that the shipment of the batteries could provoke Russia or that one of the missiles could strike Russian territory and escalate the conflict.
Russia has repeatedly claimed that its military has shot down Western-supplied weapons in Ukraine, but these claims have proved impossible to verify.
So far Ukraine has been cautious in its response to the reports.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told reporters in Kyiv on Thursday that such arms shipments are “a sensitive issue, not only for Ukraine, but also for our partners,” and that only President Volodymyr Zelensky or Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov Will make an official announcement regarding such an agreement.
Senior White House and Pentagon officials have said that sending more anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine is a priority, and Patriot missiles have been under consideration for some time. According to officials, once temperatures began to drop and Russia stepped up its offensive against civilian infrastructure, the idea became more urgent.
So far, the United States and other NATO allies have provided Ukraine with short- and medium-range anti-aircraft systems that can shoot down Russian aircraft and drones, but not ballistic and cruise missiles.