WASHINGTON, December 23. /TASS/. Moscow would like to know if Americans or citizens of other NATO countries will service the Patriot missiles bound for Ukraine, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antolov said in an interview with TASS.
"We have held many conversations with our American colleagues about the danger of drawing the US administration into the Ukrainian conflict. We have told them a dozen times what disastrous consequences the encouragement of militants from the Armed Forces of Ukraine could have," the diplomat noted. "We tried to reach the hearts and minds of politicians, explaining that it was impossible to turn a blind eye to the deaths of people at Odessa’s Trade Unions House, the shooting of unarmed soldiers and the daily slaughter of Russians in Donbass, Lugansk and other regions that have returned to us," he added.
"It seems that Washington is testing our strength," Antonov emphasized. "It all began with targeted deliveries of small arms a few years ago. And now, it is about Patriot missile systems. By the way, the amount of military aid is enormous. They would be better off using that money to meet the peaceful needs of countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia," he noted.
"According to Politico, up to 90 troops will service the Patriot system. Who are these people? Clearly, Ukraine doesn’t have such specialists and it will take a long time to train them. Will it be Americans or, perhaps, citizens of other NATO countries? It would be nice to get a straightforward answer," the ambassador mused.
"Just the other day, we tried to get the White House and the Department of State to understand that all US systems, primarily the Patriot ones, would become legitimate targets for our military," Antonov noted. "What if Americans get killed? What if they are included in these crews? How would Washington react? What is that if not proof of the administration’s direct involvement in the current conflict? What other evidence is required to confirm this assertion, which, by the way, government agencies here dislike a lot?" Antonov said.
Patriot system delivery
The US authorities on Wednesday announced plans to provide another package of military aid to Ukraine worth $1.85 bln, which will, for the first time, include a battery of the Patriot air defense missile system. Moscow has repeatedly warned Washington against providing such weapons to Kiev. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Patriot systems would be regarded as legitimate targets by the Russian Armed Forces should Washington supply them to Kiev.
The Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system that has been used in the United States Army since the 1980s. The Patriot systems, manufactured by Raytheon, are capable of hitting planes, drones, cruise missiles, and short-and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. A battery consists of five to eight mobile units. The system can carry launch containers for 4 or 16 missiles depending on the modification. According to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Patriot battery will be the most expensive weapon provided to Ukraine by the United States. The price of such a system stands at about $1.1 bln and a missile of the latest modification costs the Pentagon $4.1 mln.