Ukraine fighting for our future – European minister
“Ukraine is literally fighting for our future,” Slovakia’s defense minister, Jaroslav Nad, claimed in an interview published by the New York Times on Thursday, explaining Bratislava’s decision to send its aged Russian-made S-300 air defense systems to Kiev earlier this month
The minister, who the paper describes as a “gung-ho supporter of Ukraine,” insisted that Putin has to be stopped before he moves on further to the West – despite Moscow never voicing such plans.
Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, shares 97km (60 miles) of its border with Ukraine. It joined the US-led NATO military bloc in 2004.
Before the conflict in the neighboring country, it would have been unimaginable for Slovakia to give away sophisticated weapons for free, “but this is the world’s new reality,” he said. “We are a frontline state. We have war on our border and more than 330,000 Ukrainians coming to our country. The paradigm is completely different now.”
Last week, Washington promised Bratislava that the S-300 missile defense system it had donated to Kiev would be replaced by US-made Patriot missiles.
Moscow has repeatedly said Western arms supplies only serve to prolong the conflict and warned NATO that any convoys transporting weapons and equipment to Ukraine will be considered legitimate military targets.
The Slovakian-donated missile system allegedly met a sad fate in Ukraine. On Monday, just days after Slovakia reported the donation, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that the S-300 components supplied by “one of the European nations” were destroyed a day earlier in precision strikes by sea-launched Kalibr missiles on a warehouse near the city of Dnepropetrovsk (Dnipro) where the equipment was being hidden.
Nad, however, denied the allegations, claiming they were “fake news” intended to save face on Russia’s part, and to calm the nerves of its pilots who carry out missions over Ukraine. The minister said that he talked to his counterpart in Kiev, Aleksey Reznikov, on Monday and was assured that the systems were “working well.”
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.