Kremlin: U.S. Patriot systems in Ukraine would be legitimate target

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Dec 14 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Wednesday that U.S. Patriot missile defence systems would be a legitimate target for Russian strikes against Ukraine, should the United States authorise them to be delivered to support Kyiv.

Washington is finalising plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, a decision that could be announced as soon as this week, three U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Patriots would “definitely” be a target for Russia, but that he would not comment on unconfirmed media reports.

The Patriot is considered to be one of the most advanced U.S. air defense systems, including against aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. It typically includes launchers along with radar and other support vehicles.

The Pentagon says Russia’s recent surge in missile strikes in Ukraine is partly designed to exhaust Kyiv’s supplies of air defenses so it can dominate the skies above the country. For that reason, the United States and its allies have been delivering more air defenses for Kyiv.

For the United States, this has included NASAMS air defense systems that the Pentagon says have flawlessly intercepted Russian missiles in Ukraine. Washington has so far provided Ukraine with $19.3 billion in military assistance since the start of the conflict.

Mobilized serviceman attends a combat training at the Training Center of the Moscow Higher Combined Arms Command School of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation in Noginsk, outside Moscow, Russia. Over 300,000 reservists and volunteers have been trained over two months of partial mobilization in Russia, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

In Other Developments:

CONFLICT

* Two administrative buildings in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv were damaged on Wednesday in a drone attack, the city’s administration said, adding that there was still no information about potential injuries or fatalities.

* Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that air-defence systems shot down 10 Iranian-made Shahed drones and that there were explosions in the central Shevchenkivskyi district.

* Ukrainians leaving Bakhmut this week described almost constant Russian shelling that had forced residents to shelter in basements and sleep in the bitter cold.

Reuters was not able to independently verify battlefield report.

* Russia’s close ally Belarus announced a snap military inspection including increased combat readiness in the south of the country, the latest in a burst of exercises that have prompted concern from neighbouring Ukraine.

* The Kremlin said it had not received any proposals about a “Christmas ceasefire” in Ukraine. Earlier this week President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called earlier this week on Russia to start withdrawing its troops from his country by Christmas.

DIPLOMACY/ECONOMY/AID

* An announcement on U.S. plans to provide the Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine could be made as soon as this week, three U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

* The Kremlin said on Wednesday Patriot missile defence systems would be a legitimate target for Russian strikes against Ukraine, should the United States authorise them to be delivered to support Kyiv.

* In Paris, about 70 countries and institutions pledged just over 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion) to help maintain Ukraine’s water, food, energy, health and transportation in face of Russia’s attacks, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said.

* They also promised energy-efficient LED bulbs to ease power shortfalls and help Ukraine get through freezing winter months as Russia pounds the country’s infrastructure.

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said environmental harm from Russia’s war would affect millions of people for years.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will hold talks to discuss the events of 2022 in late December, the Russian business daily Vedomosti reported.

* Arms supplies from Italy to Ukraine would stop as soon as peace talks on ending the Russian invasion began, the Italian defence minister told parliament, as lawmakers endorsed a government decision to extend military aid throughout 2023.

* Russia dismissed a peace proposal from Zelenskiy that would involve a pullout of Russian troops, saying Kyiv needed to accept new territorial “realities”.

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