The US and other NATO allies are rushing to get air defense systems to Ukraine after Russia let loose a barrage of missiles and explosive suicide drones
- Russian forces have used missiles and drones to strike Ukrainian cities over the last two days.
- The US and other NATO allies have in turn stepped up efforts to send Ukraine air defense systems.
After back-to-back days of Russian missile and explosive suicide drone attacks on Ukrainian cities this week, the US and some other NATO allies are hurrying to deliver much-sought-after air defense systems to Ukraine.
The deadly Russian attacks — many of which took place far from the war's front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine and struck civilian areas — prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to say on Monday that air defense is "currently the number 1 priority" for his country.
Since then, NATO countries like the US, Germany, and the Netherlands have publicly expressed a desire to quickly get air defense systems into the hands of Ukrainian forces.
Germany's defense ministry said on Monday that it was delivering the first of four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems to Ukraine, adding that the recent attacks show "how important the air defense capability for Ukraine's self-defense is."
Ukraine's defense minister confirmed on Wednesday that it has already received "IRIS-Ts" from Germany and said US-made National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) are coming.
And the Dutch defense ministry said in a Wednesday statement that it is providing additional missiles for Ukraine's air and rocket defense.
"This is only the beginning. And we need more. No doubt that [Russia] is a terrorist state," Ukraine's Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said. "There is a moral imperative to protect the sky over [Ukraine] in order to save our people."
The advanced IRIS-T SLM can defend against missiles as far as 25 miles away and hit targets flying at an altitude of around 12 miles. NASAMS provide short- to medium-range protection.
Ukraine has long requested additional air defense support to better protect its skies from Russian attacks, but recent developments have made them a more pressing need.
DW News reported that the highly anticipated IRIS-T SLM systems were originally slated to be delivered to Ukraine later in the calendar year, but the fresh attacks sped up the timeline. Similarly, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters this week the US was working to accelerate the delivery of NASAMS to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that he welcomed the recent announcement from allies on sending additional air defense and praised the effectiveness of existing systems in Ukraine.
"There's an urgent need for air defence, but of course also many other capabilities: precision guided ammunition, HIMARS and other advanced modern NATO-standard systems," Stoltenberg said. "And we see that they are making a difference, and we see that Ukrainian soldiers are able to utilize these modern systems in a very effective way, making gains on the battlefield."
Ukrainian forces continue to make strides in their counteroffensives along the war's eastern and southern fronts, which have seen thousands of square miles of territory liberated from under Russian occupation.
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