Ukraine Situation Report: Slovakia’s Donated S-300 Surface-To-Air Missile System Is On Its Way

The US military is sending Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Slovakia to help defend the country’s airspace in light of the S-300 transfer.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Russia photo


The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Eduard Heger, has confirmed that his country has transferred its only Soviet-era S-300PMU long-range surface-to-air missile system to the Ukrainian military. This deal has been in the works for weeks now, and was made possible in large part by NATO allies, including the United States, agreeing to deploy Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Slovakia to make up for the resulting air and missile defense gap in the country. 

The scope of foreign military assistance to the Ukrainian military has significantly expanded to include a variety of more substantial weapon systems, such as the S-300PMU from Slovakia, in the past few weeks. Earlier this week, it emerged that the Czech Republic had sent, or was at least in the process of sending, a shipment of T-72 tanks and BMP-1 infantry vehicles to Ukraine. Australia is in the process of delivering 20 Bushmaster mine-protected wheeled light armored vehicles to the Ukrainian armed forces, and the British government says that it is planning to transfer a number of Mastiffs (another mine-protected wheeled design.) Other countries are now considering sending other types of armored vehicles and artillery systems on top of the already steady flow of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, small arms, ammunition, and other materiel.

Getting additional ground-based air defenses, especially systems like the ex-Slovakian S-300PMU that have some degree of missile defense capability, is particularly important for Ukraine's military, as The War Zone

has stressed in the past. There are already S-300 variants in service in Ukraine and these are high-end and long-range systems that authorities in Kyiv have repeatedly asked for more of specifically. Though Ukrainian forces have recently retaken much of the northern part of the country, Russia's military has shifted focus and stepped up operations further to the east and south, including a noted increase in air and missile strikes.

Just today, dozens of Ukrainian civilians were killed, and more than 100 more were injured, in a Russian strike involving a Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile on a railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. The Russian military denies carrying out this strike, falsely claiming that it does not even use this type of weapon. This is despite state media and other pro-Russian sources having initially reported it as an attack on Ukrainian forces before it became clear who the actual victims were. This is extremely similar to the chain of events that followed pro-Russian separatists infamously shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in 2014.

Before getting into the latest updates below, The War Zone readers can get up to speed first on the existing state of the conflict in Ukraine here.

WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.

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"I would like to confirm that Slovakia has provided Ukraine with an air-defence system S-300," Slovakia's Prime Minister Heger wrote on Twitter today. "[The] Ukrainian nation is bravely defending its sovereign country and us too. It is our duty to help, not to stay put and be ignorant to the loss of human lives under Russia’s agression [sic]."

“The donation of the system does not mean that the Slovak Republic has become a part of the armed conflict in Ukraine,” Heger added in a separate statement. He further said that the Slovakian government had made its decision "believing that this system will help save the lives of as many innocent Ukrainians as possible.”

Pictures and video clips showing portions of the S-300PMU system on train cars reportedly headed for Ukraine had already emerged online, followed by an official Slovakian Ministry of Defense clip showing them being loaded. Among the components seen in that imagery was at least one trail-mounted elevated mast for use with a 76N6 Clam Shell search and target acquisition radar. The radar itself, which has the ability to spot lower flying targets, including cruise missiles, thanks to its elevated position, was not seen, but the inclusion of the mast strongly suggests that it is part of the complete package being transferred to the Ukrainian military. You can read more about the complete composition and capabilities of the S-300PMU system here.

The Slovakian government first confirmed publicly more than four weeks ago that it was discussing the transfer of its S-300PMU system to Ukraine with officials from the United States and its other NATO allies. A key stipulation that authorities in Slovakia had was that it needed assurances that the defense of its own national airspace would not be compromised as a result of the deal. The German and Dutch militaries have now deployed multiple batteries of Patriot surface-to-air missiles to the country as an immediate stop-gap measure. Today, the U.S. government announced that it is in the process of sending one of its own Patriot batteries to Slovakia, as well, which will bring the total number of those systems in the country to four.

The Australian government announced today that the first three Bushmaster vehicles for Ukraine had been loaded onto a C-17A Globemaster III cargo plane at the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) base at Amberley.

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed to reporters that Mastiff vehicles were part of forthcoming additional British military aid packages for Ukraine.

Reuters has reported that the Czech Republic is working to transfer unspecified rocket artillery systems and howitzers to Ukraine, in addition to the tanks and armored vehicles that it is already sending. There are reports that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is currently delaying a final decision about sending Marder-series infantry fighting vehicles, as well as unspecified variants of the Leopard main battle tank, to Ukraine. This internal deliberation does not appear to have impacted the German government's earlier announcement of the approval of the Czech government's plan to send 56 upgraded BMP-1 infantry vehicles, which had originally belonged to the defunct East German military, to the Ukrainian armed forces.

There are reports that Slovakia is now considering delivering some number of Zuzana wheeled self-propelled 155mm howitzers to the Ukrainian military. That proposed deal could be complicated by the fact that Ukraine does not currently field any other 155mm howitzers and would therefore need sufficient stocks of ammunition in addition to the Zuzanas themselves. It is possible that these reports could actually refer to similar, but older DANA self-propelled 152mm howitzers that can fire ammunition types already in Ukraine's inventory. The Ukrainian armed forces actually evaluated the improved DANA M2 variant last year. Separately, Slovakia's Defense Minister, Jaroslav Nad, has confirmed that his country is exploring a separate plan to repair damaged Ukrainian materiel and then return it back to the country.

Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, issued a new plea for even more military assistance just today, which included requests for anti-ship missiles and drones, on top of air defense and artillery systems and armored vehicles.

A bipartisan group of members of Congress in the United States has asked the Pentagon to provide answers about what it might take to transfer a variety of manned combat jets and armed unmanned aircraft to the Ukrainian military. U.S. military officials have repeatedly pushed back against such ideas arguing that transfers of higher-end military aircraft would risk a serious escalation of direct tensions with Russia and that these systems are not what Ukraine's military most needs right now.

Bolstering Ukraine's air and missile defenses on the ground generally continues to be a particularly important focus of ongoing foreign military assistance to the country. After more than seven weeks of fighting, the Russian military has still not been able to achieve air superiority over the country. That being said, Russian forces continue to pound targets, including cities and other population centers, across Ukraine with air and missile strikes.

Earlier today, at least one Russian Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile hit a railway station in the city of Kramatorsk, which has been a hub for Ukrainian civilians trying to evacuate from the country's eastern Donbas region. Dozens of people, including children, died in the strike and more than a hundred others were injured. 

Tochka-U missiles can carry a warhead loaded with cluster munitions that separates from the main body of the weapon in the final stages of flight. The body portion of the missile, which had the slogan "For Kids" written in what appears to be Russian on the side, was subsequently found near the train station. One of Russia's unsupported propaganda narratives to promote the war in Ukraine has been that Ukrainian forces have been deliberately targeting civilians, including children, in separatist-controlled areas of the Donbas since 2014.

The Russian government is now denying carrying out the strike and is claiming, without evidence, that it is a "provocation" on the part of Ukrainian authorities, implying that it was a false flag attack or otherwise staged in some way. The Russian military says that it does not even employ Tochka-U missiles, which is, simply put, a lie.

In addition, this comes after the Russian military itself said that it had conducted military strikes on three unspecified railway stations in Donbas today. State media outlet RIA Novosti, as well as pro-Russian journalists on the ground in Donbas, initially reported that Kramatorsk was among those targets, saying that Ukrainian military personnel had been killed in the process. Those reports were deleted after it became apparent that most, if not all of the victims, were civilians. Experts and observers have already pointed out that this is all very similar to what happened following the shootdown of MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, where pro-Russian sources initially claimed to have downed a Ukrainian Air Force An-26 cargo plane.

This strike comes as evidence of likely Russian war crimes across Ukraine, including the deliberate targeting of civilians in various contexts, is mounting.

More imagery has emerged from the site of the now-defunct Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and surrounding areas, along with new reported details about what happened while it was under Russian occupation. Ukrainian forces recently reasserted control over Chernobyl along with much of northern Ukraine after Russian forces began more deliberate withdrawals in the face of growing attacks. 

The U.K. Ministry of Defence says that it has assessed that it will likely take Russia's military a week at least to regroup and resupply units withdrawn from northern Ukraine and then redeploy them to areas further to the east and south.

Russian forces continue to push to secure the strategic southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks now. However, a pocket of Ukrainian resistance continues to hold out in the center of the city. Capturing this area would help Russia's military establish a land bridge to the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

A Ukrainian Navy Amur class command ship, the Donbas, has been damaged in the fighting. It had been in the port of Mariupol for some time.

A Ukrainian official has warned that the Russian military might attempt to force Ukrainian civilians deported from in and around Mariupol to fight on their side, but there is no hard evidence readily available to substantiate this.

Russian forces continue to employ Bastion-P coastal defense cruise missile systems in a secondary land-attack role against targets in Ukraine.

The video below reportedly shows Ukrainian helicopters in action against Russian forces.

We will continue to update this post with new information until we state otherwise.

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