© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
(Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said a U.S. promise to provide the Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system was an important step in creating an effective air shield.
“This is the only way that we can deprive the terrorist state of its main instrument of terror – the possibility to hit our cities, our energy,” Zelenskiy told a White House news conference, standing next to U.S. President Joe Biden.
The Patriot system is “a defensive system, it’s not escalatory, it’s defensive” Biden told reporters. “We’d love not to have them used, just stop the attacks.”
Zelenskiy and other senior Ukrainian officials have long pleaded with allies to provide more anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems to help counter Russian missile strikes against power generating plants and other critical infrastructure.
Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had earlier said the United States would provide $1.85 billion in additional military assistance for Ukraine, including a transfer of the Patriot Air Defense System.
The Patriot is considered to be one of the most advanced U.S. air defense systems and offers protection against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles. It typically includes launchers along with radar and other support vehicles.
The United States has sent about $50 billion in assistance to the Kyiv government as it defends itself against an invasion by Russia that began 10 months ago.