US close to providing Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine: Officials

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The US is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, a decision that could be announced as soon as this week, three US officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

Ukraine has asked its Western partners for air defenses, including US-made Patriot systems, to protect it from heavy Russian missile bombardment including against its energy infrastructure.

Ground-based air defense systems such as Raytheon Technology Corp's Patriot are built to intercept incoming missiles.

Two of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the announcement could come as early as Thursday but was awaiting formal approval from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden.

One of the officials said Ukrainian forces would likely be trained on the missile defense system in Germany before the Patriot equipment was sent to Ukraine.

It was not immediately clear which version of the Patriot missile defense system would be provided to Ukraine, its range or how many units would be sent.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned NATO against providing Ukraine with Patriot missile defenses, and it is likely Moscow will view the defensive support as an escalation.

The Pentagon says Russia's recent surge in missile strikes in Ukraine is partly designed to exhaust Kyiv's supplies of air defenses and finally achieve dominance of the skies above the country.

For that reason, the US and its allies have been focused on delivering more air defenses for Ukraine, providing everything from legacy Soviet-era systems to more modern, Western ones.

For the US, this has included NASAMS air defense systems that the Pentagon says have flawlessly intercepted Russian missiles in Ukraine.

US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly raised the possibility of NATO allies sending Patriot systems to Ukraine in October.

The Patriot system is usually used against more advanced threats including aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles and typically includes the launchers along with a radar and other support vehicles.

The US has provided Ukraine with $19.3 billion in military assistance since Russia's invasion of Ukraine started on Feb. 24.

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