Ukraine war: Kyiv’s plea for Patriots falls short in Greece and Spain


According to BBC reports Greece has rejected pressure from European allies to help Ukraine boost its air defences, arguing that Athens needs the systems for itself.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed for at least seven more Patriots or similar defence batteries to protect its cities and power plants from Russian attack.

But Greece has said it cannot spare any of its Patriot or S-300 systems.

Reports say Spain will supply some Patriot missiles but not a full system.

Spain and Greece have come under pressure to help Ukraine from both Nato and European Union allies, in response to attacks on vulnerable cities including Chernihiv and power facilities in Kharkiv and close to Kyiv.

Ukraine only has a handful of Patriots to complement other Western missile defence systems and existing stocks of Soviet-era surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), such as the S-300.

Patriots are the most capable and expensive air defence systems that Ukraine has.

President Zelensky said on Friday that Russian jets had targeted Ukraine with more than 9,000 “guided aerial bombs” so far this year and Kyiv needed to be able to shoot their planes down.

“We urgently need better systems. And missiles for them to save lives right now,” he told a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, an alliance of Nato members and partner countries.

Germany has already promised an extra Patriot, and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a $6bn weapons programme on Friday, to include missile intercepts for Patriot and Nasam (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) air defence systems.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has suggested that Ukraine’s allies have not provided support they promised. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell said this week: “The Patriots are in the capitals. And it’s up to them to take the decisions.”

Greece in particular has stocks of Patriots and S-300s. But Prime Minister Kyrios Mitsotakis has ruled out handing any to Kyiv. “We explained why we cannot do it,” he told Skai TV.

His said his country’s air defences were “critical systems for the protection of Greek air space”.

Athens has provided Kyiv with weapons and ammunition but is wary of losing any of its deterrent capability because of potential flare-ups with neighbour Turkey, even though relations at the moment are relatively stable.

Spain’s military has three Patriot batteries, but argues that it needs them and can only provide a “very limited number” of Patriot missiles because its reserve is low, sources have told El País newspaper.

Each Patriot battery costs around $1bn (£800m), and each missile costs nearly $4m.

The continuing dilemma for Ukraine’s military commanders is where to place the missile systems, close to the country’s vulnerable cities or near the front line where Russia’s advances are most intense.

Recent Russian successes have been characterised by greater use of airpower. Su-34 fighter bombers have been dropping precision-guided munitions on Ukrainian forces.

We do not know where Ukraine place their SAM systems, but mitigating this growing Russian aerial threat might mean missile defence concentrates on the eastern front line.

That risks taking away a degree of missile defence for key cities and important areas of infrastructure – the sort of areas that have been regularly pounded by Russian cruise missiles and attack drones.

That is why Ukraine has been pleading for greater missile defences to plug the gaps in vulnerable areas.

Russia’s latest strikes have targeted Ukraine’s railway system in three regions.

Rail operator Ukrzaliznytsia said three of its mechanics were killed in a Russian missile attack while they were working in the eastern Donetsk region on Thursday. Russia said it hit a train carrying Western weapons and military hardware near Udachne, about 45km (28 miles) from the front line.

Thirteen people were also wounded in a strike on a train station in Balakliya, in the Kharkiv region, and officials said a passenger train was 15m (50ft) from the station when it came under attack. In a separate Russian attack, rail infrastructure was damaged in the central Cherkasy region.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has had to pull back US M1 Abrams battle tanks from the front line, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Thirty-one Abrams tanks were originally provided to help Ukrainian forces operate on the battlefield, but Russia’s increased use of drones has made the tanks harder to protect and five have been lost, AP reported.__bbc