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Zelenskiy Adviser Calls for Big Increase in Air Defence Systems for Ukraine

Ukraine cannot protect all of its main cities from Russian missile threats without a significant increase in the provision of air defence systems, according to a key adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Mykhailo Podolyak said the strikes on Odesa over the past week had shown clearly that the Russian strategy was to bombard Ukrainian cities, with the aim of overwhelming air defence systems.

“Russia’s tactics are clear: they use massive drone attacks to overload our anti-aircraft systems and then in parallel they have a window of opportunity to use ballistic missiles to target infrastructure,” he told the Guardian, in an interview at the presidential administration in Kyiv.

That strategy no longer works in Kyiv, where Ukraine has built a sophisticated multilayered air defence system using a range of equipment provided by western allies. However, in Odesa and other parts of the Ukrainian south, Russian missiles have caused chaos in the past week. There have been numerous hits on grain export infrastructure as well as multiple strikes that hit residential areas and even a cathedral.

As Russia’s stocks of Soviet-era missiles dwindle, Moscow is turning to missiles it did not use much during the early stages of the war, such as the Oniks. Originally designed as an anti-ship missile, it has been used repeatedly against targets in Odesa and elsewhere in southern Ukraine over the past week, and has been difficult for air defence systems to shoot down.

Podolyak said: “We don’t have enough modern anti-aircraft systems like Patriot, that are able to hit the latest generation Russian missiles like Oniks and Kinzhal – the deficit of these systems means we can’t cover all the parts of the country.”

Ukraine has two Patriot systems, one provided by the US and another from Germany. Their arrival in the spring, along with a host of other systems, proved a gamechanger and meant Ukraine’s forces have been able to repel almost everything Russia has thrown at the capital from the air in the past few months.

Other cities remain vulnerable, as Russia steps up attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Podolyak said Ukraine needed 10 to 12 Patriot or similar systems to be able to cover the whole country. He added that the recent strikes on Odesa showed that providing more air defence systems was the right thing to do economically as well as morally.

“It will be a lot more expensive to fix all of this later than to provide a Patriot system to defend the south,” Podolyak said.

As Ukraine struggles to protect its cities from the sky, its army is continuing a long-vaunted counteroffensive that aims to dislodge Russian troops from parts of occupied Ukrainian territory where they have dug in over the past months.

Ukrainian officials have remained largely silent about the offensive, citing the importance of surprise, but their western counterparts have said a push appears to be under way in the Zaporizhzhia region, possibly with the ultimate goal of closing Russia’s land corridor to occupied Crimea.

So far, the counteroffensive has made slow progress, with Ukrainian forces struggling to clear minefields and dislodge strong Russian defensive fortifications. Some analysts have suggested that if Ukraine does not make significant gains by the onset of winter, there will be international pressure to sue for a negotiated settlement with Russia.

As “Ukraine fatigue” increases in some western capitals, Podolyak said the Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities were aimed at putting pressure on the country’s allies to think about telling Kyiv to begin negotiations.

He said that in conversations with western leaders, Zelenskiy was making the point that, even from a purely financial perspective, continued support for Ukraine makes sense, and was asking for more air defence systems and specific weapons to help clear mines and dislodge fortifications as part of the counteroffensive.

Podolyak said: “We understand that if you are a long way away from the war and your electorate is saying internal prices are more important it’s hard to think about war … But you can just take a sheet of paper and work out what is cheaper: helping Ukraine to win the war, or having a frozen conflict with all the risks and instability it entails for years to come?

“We are explaining this to our partners, but the speed of decision making isn’t as fast as we would like. There is a kind of slight chaos about the way these decisions are made. I think there should be a moderation centre where allies could take these decisions about what is needed at any given moment and set the timetables for deliveries in a coordinated way.”

Source : TheGuardian