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Ukraine war latest: Patriot missile system suffers minor damage, US officials tell CNN

by Alexander Query May 17, 2023 9:12 PM 7 min read
German soldiers give directions to M983 HEMTT mounted with a Patriot launcher module part of the US made MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system on Feb. 18, 2023 in Zamosc, Poland. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)
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Key developments on May 17:

  • Patriot still operational, radar not damaged
  • Defense Ministry: Ukraine advances 500 meters near Bakhmut over past day
  • US House Foreign Affairs Committee supports resolution on special tribunal for Russia

U.S. officials do not believe the Patriot air defense system must be removed from the battlefield for repairs, CNN reported on May 17, quoting undisclosed U.S. officials.

According to CNN, the U.S. sent inspectors to examine the system on May 16 after Ukrainian forces said it appeared to have been damaged.

Moscow claimed to have hit and "destroyed" a Patriot system with a Kinzhal missile early on May 16. However, the system is still operational, and one of the key elements – the radar – was not damaged, the experts told CNN.

In the early hours of May 16, Russian forces launched an airstrike on Kyiv that the Kyiv City Military Administration called "exceptional in its density, with the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest time possible."

The Air Force initially said it shot down all of the 18 Russian missiles targeting Ukraine overnight, including six Kinzhal ballistic missiles and six Iranian-made Shahed-131/136 kamikaze drones.

The attacks were carried out from the north, east, and south, it added. Later in the day, the military updated the count to 25 missiles.

According to the Air Force's report, Russian forces launched the Kinzhal missiles from six MiG-31K jets, and the attack happened around 3:30 a.m.

The State Emergency Service reported that the debris of the shot-down missiles caused fires and damages in five of Kyiv's ten districts. Still, the city did not suffer significant damage.

The Kinzhal, an air-launched ballistic missile with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, was previously deemed difficult to shoot down because of its ability to bypass radar systems.

On May 4, a week after the arrival of the U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems, Ukraine's Air Force reported shooting down a Kinzhal ballistic missile for the first time.

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Battle for Bakhmut

Ukraine's Armed Forces have advanced up to 500 meters near Bakhmut over the past day, spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's Eastern Operational Command Serhii Cherevatyi said on May 17.

"(Despite) not having a large number of reserves or an advantage over the enemy in terms of equipment or personnel, we are beating them," Cherevatyi told Ukrainian TV. "In addition to conducting a successful defensive operation, we're also attacking the flanks."

On the same day, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that the Ukrainian military still held the recently liberated 20 square kilometers on the outskirts of Bakhmut.

Maliar also reported Ukrainian advances in the area, although adding that Russian troops had success inside the city of Bakhmut.

According to the Institute of the Study of War's May 16 update, despite Ukraine's successful counterattacks north and south of the city, Russian forces have likely committed to reinforcing their offensive efforts in the area.

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'Fighter jet coalition'

A coalition to provide Ukraine with Western fighter jets will be formed this year, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on national television on May 17.

According to Kuleba, some of Ukraine's allies have expressed their willingness to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate Western fighter jets, and other countries are ready to provide the aircraft.

"Our priority is the F-16, but we are not canceling other aircraft options. It's like with tanks," Kuleba said.

Once the coalition is formed, "everything will happen very quickly," Kuleba added.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte have agreed to build an "international coalition" to help procure F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine, the British government announced on May 16.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Sunak and Rutte "would work to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F-16 jets."

During President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the U.K. on May 15, Sunak said that providing Western fighter jets to Ukraine was "no straightforward thing," but the U.K. was nonetheless prepared to be "a key part of the coalition countries" aiding Ukraine in this endeavor.

The U.K. has promised to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s this summer.

However, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said during a joint press conference with his German counterpart Boris Pistorius on May 17 that the U.K. can contribute to "training and support, again, within limits, because we don't have F-16 pilots."

Meanwhile, Pistorius said Germany did not have the training capacity or military equipment to actively contribute to a British-Dutch initiative to supply Ukraine with fighter jets.

"We cannot play an active role in such an alliance, in such a coalition, because we have neither the training capacities, the competencies, or the planes," Pistorius said.

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France has "opened the door" for training Ukrainian pilots on how to use Western fighter jets, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview on May 15, as cited by Le Monde, after meeting Zelensky in Paris.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Poland was not able to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets but was not against training Ukrainian pilots and sending more MiG-29s, news outlet wPolityce reported on May 17.

While speaking to journalists at the Council of Europe summit in Iceland, Duda was asked if Poland would join an international coalition alongside the U.K. and the Netherlands to procure F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine.

According to Duda, Poland has a "relatively small number" of F-16s, meaning that supplying Ukraine with such fighter jets is not an option.

Ukraine has received 14 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and 13 from Slovakia.

US House Committee supports resolution on special tribunal

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to a resolution on May 16 supporting the establishment of a special tribunal for Russian crimes of aggression in Ukraine.

The resolution was first registered in the House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 2023.

According to the resolution, Russia's "unprecedented full-scale invasion of Ukraine has reached a critical point requiring immediate and decisive action by the international community."

One possible step toward establishing a special tribunal includes an agreement between Ukraine and the United Nations following a U.N. General Assembly vote, according to the resolution.

The resolution urges U.S. President Joe Biden to "take all available measures" to support the creation of a special tribunal.

U.S. State Department Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Beth Van Schaak said in late March that the U.S. was in favor of a hybrid tribunal.

This system would involve "the integration of professionals, judges, prosecutors, investigators, lawyers, or through the provision of expert assistance at Ukraine's request."

However, Zelensky is among those who have publicly criticized the option of a hybrid tribunal for punishing Russian war crimes.

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Speaking at The Hague on May 4, Zelensky said that the world "should not refer to the shortcomings of the current international law but make bold decisions" that would correct them in order to receive "full" justice, citing the Nuremberg trials as a precedent.

The Council of Europe also announced on May 17 that it had established a "Register of Damage" for Russian crimes of aggression in Ukraine.

Forty-three countries and the European Union joined or indicated their intention to join the initiative, according to the press release.

The office of the Register will be located at The Hague with a satellite office in Ukraine. It will serve as "a record of evidence" concerning the damages caused to the victims of Russia's crimes of aggression in Ukraine.

According to the press release, establishing the Register "paves the way towards a future international comprehensive compensation mechanism for the victims of the Russian aggression."

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the establishment of the Register was followed by the urgent task of making it operational as soon as possible so that "victims of Russian aggression could submit their claims."

The Register is only "the first step" being taken to ensure that Russia will be held accountable for its crimes against Ukraine, Shmyhal said.

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić wrote that it was a "historic achievement," adding that "every loss will be counted, every damage will be compensated."

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