The Biden administration will send to Ukraine the most advanced air defense weapon in its arsenal, the Patriot missile system, a senior administration official said late Tuesday, marking the most significant addition to American military support for the government in Kyiv in months.
The Patriot is to be included in a new $2 billion package of weapons that President Biden plans to unveil Wednesday, marking the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington, said the official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity in advance of a formal announcement.
The visit, during which Zelensky will visit Biden at the White House and address a joint session of Congress, comes as Russia carries out a relentless campaign of airstrikes on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and electrical grid, which has plunged much of the country into darkness.
The new weapons package will bring the total amount of military support for Ukraine approved by the Biden administration to about $22 billion.
Zelensky has sought the Patriot system for months, as Russia carries out a barrage of lethal strikes that have extended well beyond military targets, according to U.S. and Ukrainian assessments, and left much of the country without electricity, heat and running water. After months of refusing those entreaties, in recent weeks senior administration officials recommended to Biden that the air defense system be sent to Kyiv.