President Vladimir Putin said Moscow will knock out any Patriot battery that President Biden might send to Ukraine to fend off the Russian invasion.
His remarks came as Russian attacks continued Sunday, with three missiles fired at an industrial zone in the city of Kramatorsk in the partially-occupied Donetsk province.
In an interview Sunday on the state-owned Rossiya-1 television channel, Mr. Putin noted that the Patriot missile system, the centerpiece of a recently-announced $1.85 billion security assistance package from the U.S., has yet to arrive on the battlefield.
“Of course, we’ll take them out – 100%,” he told journalist Pavel Zarubin, according to the official TASS news agency.
Mr. Putin told Russian reporters last week that the Patriot is a “fairly outdated system” and boasted that “an antidote” to it will soon be found.
A senior Defense Department official called the Patriot “one of the world’s most advanced air defense systems” and said it will give Ukraine a critical, long-range capability to defend its airspace.
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“It is capable of intercepting cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and aircraft,” the senior Defense Department official told reporters at the Pentagon. “Our goal is to help Ukraine strengthen a layered, integrated approach to air defense.”
Russia has resorted to missile and drone attacks on vulnerable civilian targets as its armies in the field have repeatedly failed to make substantial advances into Ukraine since the shock of the first few days.
Most recently, 10 people were killed and dozens more wounded Saturday from Russian strikes on the city of Kherson.
But Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed governor of the occupied region, blamed the attack on Kyiv, saying it was a “false flag” operation to smear officials in the Kremlin.
“It is a disgusting provocation pursuing an evident goal of pinning the blame on the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Saldo wrote on his Telegram social media site. “The responsibility for another crime lies with the political leadership of Ukraine which gives orders to shell residential areas.”
On Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia will try to make the last few days of the year “dark and difficult” for Ukraine.
“Russia lost everything it could this year. But it is trying to compensate for its losses with the gloating of its propagandists after the missile strikes at our country,” Mr. Zelenskyy said in his regular address to the nation. “I know that the darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to their new defeats. But, we have to be ready for any scenario.”