Slovakia sends its air defense system to Ukraine

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / Handout via Reuters
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a meeting with Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger in Kyiv on Friday.

PRAGUE (Reuters) — Slovakia has donated its S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Friday, a day after the United States said more than 30 countries were increasing military aid to Kyiv.

Ukraine has repeatedly appealed to Western nations for air defense weaponry and heavy ground military equipment to help repel the 6-week-long Russian military onslaught.

“I can confirm that Slovakia donated the S-300 air defense system to Ukraine based on its request to help in self defense due to armed aggression from the Russian Federation,” Heger said in a statement.

NATO member Slovakia has been operating one battery of the Soviet-designed S-300 air defense system which it inherited after the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

Heger, who was visiting Kyiv on Friday, also said that Slovakia’s own defense was secured.

The Slovak donation is the first known case of a country sending an air defense system to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.

In March, NATO allies Germany and Netherlands brought three batteries of the Patriot air defense system to Slovakia, which Bratislava said at the time would complement, rather than replace, the S-300, and that it would consider giving up the S-300 if it secured a replacement.

Heger said Slovakia would receive additional equipment from NATO allies to make up for the donation. Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad subsequently announced that Slovakia would receive the fourth Patriot missile system from the United States next week.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States would place one Patriot system in Slovakia in the coming days and it would be operated by U.S. troops.

“Their deployment length has not yet been fixed, as we continue to consult with the Slovakian government about more permanent air defense solutions,” Austin said in a statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Slovakia for sending its S-300 system to Ukraine.

“As the Russian military repositions for the next phase of this war, I have directed my Administration to continue to spare no effort to identify and provide to the Ukrainian military the advanced weapons capabilities it needs to defend its country,” Biden said in a statement.

Russia has said that it considered western military shipments to Ukraine legitimate targets. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and allies say Russia invaded without provocation.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday the United States and 30 other countries were sending weapons to Ukraine and that the process would intensify. He spoke of “new systems” that have so far not been provided by NATO allies, but declined to go into details.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked for planes, land-based anti-ship missiles, armored vehicles and air defense systems at a special session at NATO headquarters on Thursday.