Ukraine needs at least seven Patriot air defence systems, Zelenskiy tells NATO

FILE PHOTO: German Patriot air defence system units are deployed at Vilnius airport

By Tom Balmforth and Yuliia Dysa

KYIV (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told NATO members on Friday that Ukraine needed a minimum of seven Patriot or other high-end air defence systems to counter Russian air strikes, exhorting them to step up their military assistance for Kyiv.

In an emotional speech by video link to the NATO-Ukraine Council, the Ukrainian leader described the current level of foreign aid as "very limited" and said Israel had not been left to fend for itself during Iran's massive air strike on Saturday.

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin must be brought down to earth, and our sky must become safe again.. And it depends fully on your choice... (the) choice whether we are indeed allies," Zelenskiy said in his speech.

Russia has increased its long-range bombardment of Ukraine's energy infrastructure and its cities in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure on Kyiv as Moscow's more numerous and better equipped forces slowly advance on the battlefield in the east.

Just this year, Zelenskiy said, Ukraine had been attacked by almost 1,200 Russian missiles, more than 1,500 drones and 8,500 guided bombs amid a slowdown in Western military assistance.

"We are telling this directly – to defend, we need seven more 'Patriots' or similar air defence systems, and it's a minimum number. They can save many lives and really change the situation," he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting between allied defence ministers and Zelenskiy that the allies had agreed to provide Kyiv with additional air defence systems.

"In addition to Patriots, there are other weapons that allies can provide, including (the French system) SAMP/T, and many others, who do not have available systems, have pledged to provide financial support to purchase them for Ukraine," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.


Zelenskiy said Kyiv's troops needed to receive long-range missiles and artillery shells now.

"This year we can't wait for decisions to be made," he said.

U.S. military aid has been delayed for months in Congress, but the House of Representatives is expected on Saturday to vote on a bill that would release tens of billions of dollars of military aid.

"We’re still waiting for new support packages from the United States – American support has been in question for too long," Zelenskiy said.

His speech was delivered to the NATO-Ukraine Council behind closed doors, but his office published the text and video of it on its website.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Yuliia Dysa; Editing by Gareth Jones)