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Zelenskyy asks Blinken for Patriot air defenses for Kharkiv

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) greets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) prior to their meeting in Kyiv on May 14, 2024. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on May 14, 2024 in Kyiv on an unannounced visit to assure Ukraine of continued American support and the flow of much-needed weapons as Russia presses on with its new offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region.   (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images of North America/TNS)
By Courtney McBride Bloomberg News

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to allies to provide Ukraine with air-defense batteries to shield its second-biggest city as Russia launched a large-scale offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

“We need, today, two Patriots for Kharkiv,” Zelenskyy told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting in Kyiv, referring to the US-made anti-missile defense system.

Blinken’s trip underscores U.S. support after delays in military aid forced Ukraine to ration munitions and prompted fears the U.S. would abandon its partner. Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. government for its provision of a “crucial package,” valued at $61 billion.

Reinforcements have been deployed to stabilize the northeastern frontline as President Vladimir Putin’s troops attempt to push the contact line deeper into the region after weeks of intensified air strikes on Ukraine’s second-biggest city.

The U.S. and its partners aim to ensure Ukraine’s near-term success on the battlefield and its long-term self-sufficiency and economic viability, Blinken said, calling the latter “the best rebuke to Putin and the best possible guarantor” of Ukraine’s future.

Russia has deployed a significant force of up to five battalions, equivalent to about 2,000 soldiers, in a drive toward the northeastern town of Vovchansk, Ukraine’s top military command said on Facebook Monday. Success in driving Ukraine back in Kharkiv would take the Russian city of Belgorod and military strongholds and supply hubs in the surrounding area out of Ukrainian artillery range.

The assault is likely to stretch Ukraine’s already outgunned and out-manned forces as it may push Kyiv to redeploy some of its troops from the long front line in the east.