Biden Promises Zelensky Further Advanced Air Defense Systems After Attacks

Update(1741ET): Immediately upon Monday's major wave of airstrikes on dozens of cities and towns across Ukraine, the Zelensky government renewed its appeal for Washington to urgently send more anti-air defense systems to help "close the skies" - as President Zelensky had earlier in the war said to Congress.

President Biden in a phone call responded positively to the request, telling Zelensky the US will continue providing the weapons needed, which is to include more air defenses, most likely the NASAMS anti-air defense systems which since the summer the Pentagon has been providing.

Biden "expressed his condemnation of Russia’s missile strikes across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, and conveyed his condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured in these senseless attacks," a White House readout of the call said.

File image: NASAMS air defense system

"President Biden pledged to continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems," the statement added. "He also underscored his ongoing engagement with allies and partners to continue imposing costs on Russia, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and providing Ukraine with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance."

Zelensky emphasized that procuring additional advanced anti-air defense systems remains the "number 1 priority in our defense cooperation" with the US. Earlier in the day, Ukraine's defense minister tweeted the following: 

Germany too has stepped forward to pledge it will be transferring at least four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems to Ukraine "in the next few days." 

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said the following in the wake of Monday's deadly Russian missile and drone attacks:

"The renewed rocket fire on Kyiv and the many other cities makes it clear how important it is to deliver air defense systems to Ukraine quickly."

"Russia's missile and drone attacks primarily terrorize the civilian population. That is why we are now supporting them with anti-aircraft weapons in particular."

Zelensky's government has also throughout the conflict urged the transfer of US and other NATO-allied fighter jets, something however which Washington and its allies have refused to do on fears of entering a direct shooting war with Russia.

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A series of major explosions rocked Kyiv and several locations across Ukraine on Monday, following Russian President Vladimir Putin blaming Ukrainian special services for the "terrorist" blast which partially disabled the Crimean bridge that links Russia to the peninsula.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the fresh missile attacks in a statement posted to Telegram, saying that the new "missiles hitting" are part of the Kremlin trying to "wipe us off the face of the Earth," and that: "Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded."

Image of widespread destruction in Kiev & other cities are widely circulating on social media.

At least 100 strikes were carried out, with many cruise missiles launched from Russian warships in the Black Sea. Putin in a televised announcement said he ordered attacks on military, energy, and communications targets specifically in response to the Crimea bridge attack.

"If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks continue, Russia's response will be severe and at the level of the threats facing it. Nobody should be in any doubt," Putin warned. He threatened that more might follow: "If attempts to commit terrorist acts on our territory continue, the responses from Russia will be harsh and their scale will correspond to the level of threat to Russia," he added, addressing a meeting of his Security Council. "No one should have any doubts."

Russia's defense ministry also affirmed it hit "all the assigned targets" - which in some cases appear to have been civilian infrastructure in the Ukrainian capital. Regional sources are listing that over 15 significant cities were targeted and suffered severe damage, including Kiev, Rovno, Lvov, Ternopol, Ivano-Frankovsk, Khmelnitsky, Zhitomir, Kremenchug, Kropivnitsky, Krivoy-Rog, Odessa, Zaporozhie, Dnieper, Poltava, Kharkov. Additional smaller cities and towns were hit as well.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidency's office said "many cities" came under Russian attack. "Ukraine is under missile attack. There is information about strikes in many cities of our country." He further warned the population to "stay in shelters."

"The capital is under Russian terrorists' attack!" Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said in describing strikes on the city center. "If there is no urgent need, it is better not to go to the city today. I am also asking the residents of the suburbs about this — do not go to the capital today."

Importantly, there are reports the building housing the German consulate in Kyiv was rocked by a missile, according to BILD newspaper. These are the first strikes on the Ukrainian capital since June.

People seen sheltering in underground metro stations amid ongoing air raid sirens...

In an initial response EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said he is "Deeply shocked by Russia’s attacks on civilians in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine. Such acts have no place in 21st century," and condemned them "in the strongest possible terms."

However, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said this is only the beginning of the response, saying according to a state media translation:

"The first episode is over. There will be others... I will express my personal position... The Ukrainian state in its current configuration with the Nazi political regime will pose a constant, direct and clear threat to Russia. Therefore, in addition to protecting our people and protecting the country's borders, the goal of our future actions … should be a complete dismantling of the political regime of Ukraine," Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel.

Many pundits have pointed out that Russia has been "holding back" up to this point. With the war now more than seven months in, there hasn't been the kind of "shock and awe" attacks against major Ukrainian centers like some predicted initially.

Independent geopolitical analyst Tom Fowdy described, "I honestly don't know what Ukraine and their supporters were expecting when they decided to attack a bridge Russia could not have made more clear was a massive, massive red line. They're forcing Putin's hand even when he has been massively lethargic to play it."

Map of Monday's strikes:

Image of widespread destruction in Kiev & other cities are widely circulating on social media.

Likely reports of casualty figures will continue rising throughout the day as damage is assessed. "At least five civilian deaths were reported and 12 people were wounded in Kyiv on Monday as at least 83 missiles were fired on the country," The Hill reports based on local sources. Ukraine’s armed forces said that air defenses succeeded in downing 43 missiles.

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