The U.S.-promised MIM-104 Patriot air defense system will be delivered to Ukraine sooner than anticipated, according to U.S. military officials.
On Dec. 21, the day U.S. President Joe Biden promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the U.S. would give his nation one of its Patriot systems, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters, including from The War Zone, that the delivery could take a while, with the training of Ukrainian troops expected to last at least several months.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said that delivery of the Patriot battery will be “expedited.”
But he did not offer specifics.
“So for operations security reasons, I'm not going to get into delivery timelines other than to say we're confident that we'll be able to get the Patriots there on an expedited timeline,” Ryder said. “I'll just leave it at that.”
Pushed to confirm a CNN story published earlier Tuesday that the Patriot delivery will be faster than expected, Ryder confirmed that the training of the Ukrainian air defense troops did go quicker than anticipated.
“You're seeing that the Ukrainians that were undergoing Patriot training went faster than expected, just given their propensity and eagerness to do the training,” he said. “So of course that figures into this and I really, again, don't want to get into when you're going to see the Patriot arrive in Ukraine other than one day, it will be there and we'll highlight that once the Ukrainians have done things.”
According to CNN, the delivery of a Patriot air defense system to Ukraine "will be faster than originally planned."
“A group of 65 Ukrainian soldiers will complete their training on the systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the coming days," CNN reported, citing U.S. defense officials.
"The troops will then move on to Europe for additional training on the two Patriot systems – one American and one built by the Germans and Dutch – that will be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks, the officials told reporters at Fort Sill."
U.S. trainers at Fort Sill, where the 65 Ukrainians have been training since January 15, were able to significantly speed up the timeline of the course because of the Ukrainians’ baseline knowledge of air defense systems, the officials told reporters from several news organizations.
“Our assessment is that the Ukrainian soldiers are impressive, and absolutely a quick study,” said Brig. Gen. Shane Morgan, the Fort Sill commander. “Due to their extensive air defense knowledge and experience in a combat zone, it was easier – though never easy – for them to grasp the Patriot System Operations and Maintenance concepts.”
The U.S. military had allocated 10 weeks for the training, according to CNN, "but the Ukrainians completed it in about eight weeks" as they underwent an "aggressive" training schedule that ran daily from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M.
The Patriots are “capable of intercepting cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and aircraft," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters, including from The War Zone, on Dec. 21. “For air defense, there is no silver bullet. Our goal is to help Ukraine strengthen a layered integrated approach to air defense that will include Ukraine's own legacy capabilities as well as NATO standard systems. Patriot will complement a range of medium- and short-range air defense capabilities that we have provided and the allies have provided in prior donation packages.”
The biggest facet the Patriot system brings to Ukraine is a robust ability to counter ballistic missile threats. Currently, Ukraine only has a very peripheral capability in this regard via a limited number of its S-300 system.
You can read more about the Patriot system, its potential role in Ukraine, and some of the things it can and can’t do, in our coverage here.
The U.S. military is also working to speed up the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, with the first examples now slated to arrive in the country sometime in the fall. The accelerated timeline is thanks in large part due to a decision to supply refurbished M1A1 variants, rather than newer M1A2 types.
You can read more about it in our story here.
Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Russia launched more missiles at Ukraine Tuesday.
Ukrainian officials say the Russians fired four Kh-59 missiles at Odesa. Two were shot down, they claimed, but two hit the city.
A video of the consequences of the missile strikes on Odesa was published by the head of the President's Office Andrii Yermak.
"As a result of the shelling, a 3-story residential building on the monastery's territory was damaged, and three people were injured," according to the Ukrainian United24 media outlet's Telegram channel.
There were air raid alerts elsewhere in Ukraine, but it is unclear at the moment what, if any, damage was caused. We will update this story with any additional information.
The Russians, meanwhile, claimed another cross-border Ukrainian drone attack in Bryansk, which sits over the border inside Russia.
Ukrainian "UAVs attacked the village of Klimovo," in Bryansk Oblast, said its governor, Alexander Bogomaz, on his Telegram channel. "There were no casualties. Five houses were damaged. All emergency services are already on site."
"The Armed Forces of Ukraine, using UAVs, attacked the territory of the Novozybkov oil pumping station of Transneft JSC," said Bogomaz. "There were no casualties. Operational services are on site. In order to ensure security for the duration of the operational activities, the power was turned off in the settlements of Mamai, Trostan, Druzhba, Snovskoye, Dubrovka. After carrying out operational and investigative measures, [the] power supply will resume."
The Russians have claimed previous drone attacks on Bryansk.
Bryansk was also where a purported raid by Russian anti-Putin partisans took place earlier this month, though the exact details of that operation remain very murky.
There have been no drastic changes on the battlefield as both sides are engaged in a bloody slog centered in the Donbas region.
Here are some key takeaways from the latest Institute for the Study of War assessment:
- Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian and Russian forces conducted offensive operations northeast of Kupyansk.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations near Svatove and Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued making advances in and around Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline and made marginal gains near Avdiivka.
- Russian sources claim that Russian forces are building up defensive fortifications and repelled Ukrainian reconnaissance-in-force operations in Zaporizhia Oblast.
Avdiivka, like many towns, has suffered greatly during this conflict, as you can see from the images below.
Japan's Prime Minster Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit to Ukraine today.
Kishida arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday afternoon local time and also traveled to Bucha, the town just north of the Ukrainian capital that has become synonymous with Russian war crimes.
Kishida’s trip marks the first time a Japanese prime minister has visited a country or region with ongoing fighting since World War II, the Japanese news outlet NHK reported. It will also be the first visit to Ukraine by an Asian member of the G7 grouping and the first by a U.S. ally in the region.
During a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kishida announced that Japan would provide Ukraine with $470 million in bilateral aid, and an additional $30 million of non-lethal equipment support.
Kishida's visit came a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, showing the contrasting support for the warring parties by Asian powerhouses.
And speaking of the Xi-Putin meeting, Russia and China issued a joint statement that included language on the all-out war in Ukraine and Beijing's peace plan.
"The Russian side positively assesses the objective and unbiased position of the Chinese side on the Ukrainian question," according to a translation by Reuters. "The parties are opposed to any states and their blocs damaging the legitimate security interests of other states in order to obtain military, political and other advantages. The Chinese side positively assesses the willingness of the Russian side to make efforts to restart peace talks as soon as possible."
"Russia welcomes China's readiness to play a positive role in a political-diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian crisis and the constructive ideas set forth in the document drawn up by the Chinese side 'On China's Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukrainian Crisis.'"
"The parties note that in order to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, it is necessary to respect the legitimate concerns of all countries in the field of security and prevent the formation of bloc confrontation, and halt actions that further fuel the conflict."
"The parties stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for a sustainable resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, and the international community should support constructive efforts in this regard."
"The parties call for an end to all steps that contribute to the escalation of tension and prolongation of hostilities, to avoid further degradation of the crisis to the point where it could cross over into an uncontrollable phase. The parties oppose all unilateral sanctions imposed in circumvention of the U.N. Security Council."
China did at least try to engage Kyiv on its proposal, according to one Ukrainian official.
“We can see the efforts by the Chinese side to involve the Ukrainian side in the so-called peace talks,” Yurii Poita, head of the Asia-Pacific Section at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, said during a briefing Tuesday at the Media Center Ukraine. “This was evident both in the rhetoric of Chinese leaders before and during the visit itself. In addition, there are some signs of pressure on Ukrainian diplomacy — the Chinese side was trying to find out how ready Ukraine is for these negotiations.”
Poita said China’s efforts to find out if Ukraine is ready for the so-called peace talks with the Russian federation also took place at the “expert” level.
“A few days ago, we held discussions with Chinese experts, who are directly affiliated with the Chinese government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense,” he said. “And we saw a very clear attempt by China to find out whether Ukraine is ready for peace negotiations on Russian terms, without the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine. They tried to convince us that it was necessary.”
No arguments could sway the Chinese side, “and they tried to push these so-called peace talks,” Poita said.
Despite the Biden administration's attempts to crack down on technology imports to Russia, China has shipped millions of dollars worth of drones to Russia since it launched its full invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reported today.
"While drone sales have slowed, American policies put in place after Russia’s invasion have failed to stanch exports of the unmanned aerial vehicles that work as eyes in the sky for frontline fighters," the newspaper reported. "In the year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China has sold more than $12 million in drones and drone parts to the country, according to official Russian customs data from a third-party data provider."
Yesterday, we reported that the town of Dzhankoy in the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula came under attack by Ukrainian drones.
Today, images emerged of the remains of those drones, showing they were the adapted Chinese Mugin-5 'Alibaba' drones frequently used by Ukraine to conduct long-range strikes, in this case more than 90 miles behind the lines.
Ukraine apparently used the drone's airframe to troll the Russians with several inscriptions.
Yesterday, we reported Russian claims that one of its Su-35 Flanker jets intercepted two B-52s.
The Pentagon is pushing back on those claims.
“Yesterday two B-52s were conducting a long-range Bomber Task Force mission with NATO allies and partners in Estonian airspace,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the top Pentagon spokesman during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. “The mission was part of normally scheduled training operations coordinated months prior to execution. In accordance with the flight standards specified within International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines to include filing international flight plans and operating with due regard for safety of all aircraft. The important thing here is that the flights remained within Estonian airspace - the entire flight with an approximate distance of 50 nautical miles from Russian airspace - and at no point did the B-52s make contact with Russian aircraft. So those are the facts.”
"We are continuing to conduct operations over the Black Sea flying in international airspace in accordance with international law where it will allow us to do so," he said. "I'm not going to - for operational security reasons - get into the specifics of routes, missions, timelines and things like that. But we are continuing to conduct those operations."
One year ago today, soldiers of the Defense Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine (GUR) made the first helicopter flight to besieged Mariupol to help the defenders of the Azovstal steel plant.
It's a mission we wrote about last year in an exclusive interview with one of those who took part.
Today, the GUR publicized new interviews with some of the participants contained in a report by TSN correspondent Nataliya Yarmola.
Scratch Ireland off the list of places Putin might visit.
"Ireland will arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes in the unlikely event he sets foot in Ireland, the Department of Justice has confirmed," according to the Irish Times.
Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin, accusing him of war crimes for the illegal deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation. The ICC also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, accusing her of the same war crimes.
"As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Ireland is legally bound to implement the decisions of the ICC, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands," the newspaper reported. “As with any case, if Ireland receives a request for the arrest and surrender of a person who is subject to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, this request will be dealt with in accordance with the ICC Act 2006."
The Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group posted what it says was the first footage of a French Crotale NG short-range air defense system in operation with Ukrainian forces.
Despite increasing Russian pressure on Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops say they still have tanks in that embattled Donetsk Oblast coal mining town.
Armor on both sides has taken a beating during this conflict, as you can see in the video below of five Russian tanks that were destroyed or abandoned by Ukrainian forces.
From the dawn of human combat, warriors have sought ways to relieve the stress of war. These Ukrainian troops did that by taking a ride on a tank track.
We've seen a lot of videos emerge of things being dropped by drones, nearly all of them unwanted by those on the receiving end, like Russian troops who came under attack by a Ukrainian drone as seen below.
Well, now for something completely different. This time, it was hot dogs, not grenades, and the target wasn't troops or equipment, but a hungry dog.
And finally, this conflict has been highlighted by a series of Mad Max-like improvisational improvements to a variety of vehicles in an effort to make them more war-worthy.
The latest example is a remote-controlled turret installed on a Ukrainian armored pickup. Ukrainians have been incredibly innovative when it comes to giving relatively pedestrian vehicles remote weapons capabilities.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when we have more news from Ukraine to report.
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