Kyiv backs Polish idea to send German Patriot missile system to Ukraine
The Ukrainian Air Force has backed a Polish proposal in which Germany hands over to Ukraine Patriot missile batteries it had initially offered to Poland.
The German government offered to send Poland the US-made air-defence system to help it secure its airspace after a missile crashed near a Polish village close to the Ukrainian border, killing two people last week.
But on Wednesday, the Polish defence minister asked Germany to give the Patriots to Ukraine instead.
"After further missile attacks by Russia (against Ukraine - PAP), I asked the German side to pass the Patriot batteries that it had offered to Poland to Ukraine instead, and deploy them on their western border," Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.
The minister's move is in line with the opinion expressed by the ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in an interview with PAP earlier on Wednesday.
Commenting on the Polish initiative, Yuriy Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that the deployment of Patriot systems in the west of Ukraine would strengthen the security of the airspace of both Ukraine and the whole Europe.
"And why in Poland? You can deploy it in western Ukraine," Ihnat said, as cited by the RBK-Ukraine news portal. "This is a question for our partners, what steps they are ready to take to defend the Ukrainian border and Ukrainian territory and Europe, to ensure airspace security on the outskirts of Europe.
"This will of course help, the system has a range of over 100 kilometres... The system could potentially strengthen the defence of Ukrainian skies," he added.
Commenting on the Polish proposal to hand over the Patriot launchers to Ukraine, Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish prime minister, told a press conference on Thursday that this is "a good proposal for the protection of the Polish-Ukrainian border."
Asked whether the defence minister had consulted about the decision he said that "of course, there were talks on how to make the best use of Germany's proposal to "protect the area that is at risk as much as possible."
"I think that the proposal we have made... will protect this strip of land, our border, the western Ukrainian-Polish border and the eastern Polish-Ukrainian border... we are doing everything to ensure the maximum possible security of this part of Poland," Morawiecki said.
On Thursday afternoon, the German defence minister, Christine Lambrecht, said the defence equipment could not be handed over to Ukraine due to Nato constraints.
"These Patriots are part of Nato's integrated air defence, which means that they are to be deployed on Nato territory," Lambrecht said.
"Any use of them outside the Nato territory would require earlier talks with Nato and the allies," she added.
Later on Thursday, Marcin Przydacz, a Polish deputy foreign minister, said Poland would be ready to negotiate the deployment of the Patriot missiles on its territory.
"If the need arises, and if Germany can supply the Patriot batteries in a condition suited to the Polish army's needs, then I think (defence minister - PAP) Mariusz Blaszczak will want to continue these talks in a positive way," Przydacz said.