US to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine as Zelensky heads to Washington for meeting with Biden
President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed early on Dec. 21 that he's on his way to Washington for a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden for his first foreign trip since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in late February this year.
"On my way to the U.S. to strengthen the resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine," he wrote on Twitter.
Zelensky will also give a speech to Congress.
The visit comes as the U.S. prepares to send a Patriot surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine — the most advanced air defense weapon in its arsenal that Kyiv has been long pleading for – the White House reported.
According to the report, the United States will provide Ukraine with a Patriot battery, which includes up to eight launchers with four to 16 missiles each, depending on the type of munition used. The system is expected to be part of a new $2 billion military aid package that the U.S. plans to unveil on Dec. 21.
The U.S. forces would train Ukrainians to use and maintain the system in a third country, most likely Germany, and it is unlikely that the air defense system will be delivered to Ukraine before spring, according to the Washington Post.
On Dec. 16, Russia launched its seventh missile strike against Ukraine, firing 98 cruise missiles at the nation's energy infrastructure. Ukraine's air defense downed 60 of them. Explosions were reported in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, except for Russian-occupied Crimea and Luhansk Oblast.
Russia has repeatedly attacked critical infrastructure across Ukraine since early October, killing dozens of people and causing power outages.
Moscow has admitted that Ukraine's energy system is one of its primary targets. According to the Geneva Convention, attacking vital public infrastructure constitutes a war crime.