Russia’s foreign ministry warned the United States on Thursday that if it ships sophisticated Patriot air defense missiles to Ukraine, Moscow would consider it a “provocative move” that could prompt a response from the Kremlin.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that U.S. deployment of Patriot missiles to combat Russian airstrikes would represent an escalation in the U.S. role in helping the Kyiv government fend off Russia’s 10-month war and “could entail possible consequences.”
She did not spell out what Moscow’s response might be but said the United States should “draw the right conclusions” from Russia’s warnings that equipment supplied by the U.S. is a legitimate target for Russian attacks. With its arms shipments to Ukraine, she said the U.S. already had "effectively become a party" to the war.
The U.S. this week confirmed to reporters an agreement to send the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has long said Ukraine needs to defend itself against an onslaught of Russian airstrikes targeting vital infrastructure, including power and water facilities.
White House and Pentagon leaders have consistently said that providing Ukraine with additional air defenses is a priority, but until this week, they had balked at sending the Patriot missiles. However, with the continued bombardment of Ukraine’s infrastructure, U.S. officials decided that deployment of the air defense missiles was necessary.
U.S. officials also said Thursday they would expand military combat training for Ukrainian forces during the winter months, with the new instruction to occur at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany.
The U.S. has already trained about 3,100 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain various weapons and other equipment, including howitzers, armored vehicles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS.
U.S. senior military leaders for months have discussed expanding such training, citing the need to improve the ability of Ukraine's company- and battalion-sized units to move and coordinate attacks against Russian forces.
Death and darkness in Kherson
In the latest Russian shelling Thursday, two people were killed in Kherson and the southern Ukrainian city was left completely without power. Russia-installed officials reported Ukrainian attacks in the eastern city of Donetsk.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, posted on Telegram that the Russian strikes hit the regional administration building in Kherson.
In Donetsk, Russia-appointed mayor Alexei Kulemzin said overnight shelling amounted to some of the biggest attacks there in years.
Russia-backed separatists have controlled parts of the Donetsk region since 2014, and in September the area was part of an annexation announced by Russia but rejected by the international community.
In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Tuerk told a meeting of the Human Rights Council that Russia’s war on Ukraine continues to be marked by gross violations of international human rights law.
Tuerk, who ended a visit to Ukraine last week, said 18 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid and that additional Russian airstrikes “could lead to a further serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation and spark more displacement.”
He said Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, including energy facilities, are exposing millions of Ukrainian civilians to “extreme hardship during the winter months.”
“My deepest wish is for an end to this senseless war,” Tuerk said.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.