Slovakia says it has given S-300 air defence system to Ukraine

Prime Minister Eduard Heger says donation does not mean the NATO member joined the war.

An S-300 air defence missile system launches a missile during the Keys to the Sky competition at the International Army Games 2017 at the Ashuluk shooting range outside Astrakhan, Russia in August 2017
Ukraine has appealed to Western nations for military assistance, including air defence equipment [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Prime Minister Eduard Heger says Slovakia has given its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine to help it defend against Russian attacks.

In a post on Facebook on Friday, Heger said the donation of the Soviet-made anti-aircraft batteries did not mean that the European Union and NATO member had joined the conflict with Russia, which invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24.

“I can confirm that the Slovak Republic has donated the S-300 air defence system to Ukraine, following Ukraine’s request for assistance,” Heger wrote.

“The donation of the system does not mean that the Slovak Republic has become a part of the armed conflict in Ukraine,” he added.

Ukraine has appealed to Western nations for military assistance, including air defence equipment, to help repel a Russian military onslaught.

On Friday, the United States said it would send new weapon systems to Ukraine after NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to accelerate arms deliveries in response to Russia’s invasion.

Urged by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to end bureaucracy-driven delays, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US and 30 other countries were sending weapons to Ukraine and that that process would intensify.

Blinken added the US had already agreed to send Kyiv anti-aircraft systems, shoulder-held anti-tank weapons and armoured vehicles.

Last week, Pentagon officials said not all the weaponry President Joe Biden had promised to Ukraine in mid-March, including the S-300, had been delivered yet.

Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, told a congressional hearing: “We have focused on getting countries that hold Soviet legacy systems including S-300 systems, that have spare parts, missiles, different parts of that S-300 system, who are willing to send that to Ukraine.”

On Friday, Biden said his administration had agreed to “reposition a US Patriot missile system to Slovakia” to enable the Slovakian government’s transfer of the S-300 to Ukraine.

“To enable this transfer and ensure the continued security of Slovakia, the United States will reposition a US Patriot missile system to Slovakia,” Biden said in a statement.

“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.”

In March, Slovakia said it would provide the defence system to Ukraine only on the condition that it receive a substitute to avoid a NATO security gap.

Heger said Slovakia was giving the S-300s “to Ukraine and its innocent citizens, believing that this system will help save the lives of as many innocent Ukrainians as possible.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies