US assures Russia over Patriots – Lavrov
The US has told Russia that it will not send American soldiers to operate Patriot air-defense systems in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russia’s Channel One on Wednesday. The Russian diplomats received these assurances from Washington through “embassy channels,” he added.
“We’ve asked the Americans through the channels that our embassy still has, whether their decision to hand over a Patriot battery [to Ukraine] means that American specialists would come along with it, since it is complicated to use,” Lavrov said. The Russian diplomats then received “extensive explanations,” in which the US officials assured them they had no such plans, according to the minister.
“It is precisely because the Americans do not want to and will not fight directly against Russia that the Patriot [system] would only be made operational in several months as soon as the Ukrainian soldiers master this technology,” Lavrov explained.
Nevertheless, Moscow harbors no illusions about the extent of US involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Lavrov said, adding that “dozens or even hundreds of American servicemen” are currently on Ukrainian soil. In particular, he pointed to the “sizable military attaché apparatus,” adding that its military specialists provide “direct consultative services” to Ukraine. A group of US specialists was also monitoring the use of American weapons in Ukraine, the minister added.
Russia previously slammed Washington’s decision to send Patriots to Ukraine, calling such a move “provocative.” It also warned that any weapons systems handed over to Kiev, including the Patriots, would be “legitimate priority targets” for Russian forces.
Last week, Politico reported, citing some US officials, that the air-defense systems would not be shipped to Ukraine until its Ukrainian operators were ready. According to the outlet, the US might also start training Ukrainians on its soil. An advanced MIM-104 Patriot long-range anti-missile system requires dozens of qualified personnel to operate, while the training course usually takes months to complete.
The White House had previously said that the US would train Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriots in a “third country.”