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US diverts air defense missile deliveries to Ukraine

The U.S. is sending Ukraine air defense missiles that were contracted for purchase by other countries, the White House announced Thursday.

The decision comes as Ukraine has pleaded with its supporters to send at least seven Patriot missile systems to defend against Russian assaults that are pummeling the country and targeting energy infrastructure.

“The United States has made the difficult decision to reprioritize near-term planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries, of particularly Patriot and NASAMS missiles, to go to Ukraine instead,” said John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser.

“The United States has a robust foreign military sales program where our defense industrial base produces and then exports materials to other countries, including air defense missiles. We’re going to reprioritize the deliveries of these exports so those missiles rolling off the production line will be provided to Ukraine.”

Kirby said that air defense munitions for Taiwan and Israel, in particular, would not be impacted. He said the U.S. had communicated to affected countries with pending foreign military sales, but he couldn’t detail how long the delays would be and didn’t mention specific countries.

“We’ll do the best we can to minimize the delay,” he said.

Kirby said the scope of the deliveries to Ukraine will “provide them enough capabilities” over the next 16 months.

The move by the U.S. comes as Ukraine also welcomed the decision by Romania on Thursday to send a Patriot missile battery, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling it a “crucial contribution.”

“By putting an end to Russian terror now, Ukraine prevents potential aggression against Moldova, Romania, the Baltic states, and all of our neighbors. It is critical for Ukraine to have the necessary tools to defeat Russian terror now so that no one else has to face Russia’s aggressive actions on a larger scale in the future,” Zelensky said in a statement.

See also  Ukraine urgently needs soldiers, but some men are desperate not to fight

During a press conference between Zelensky and President Biden on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Italy last week, Biden said the U.S. was working to source at least five Patriot systems for Ukraine.

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