Ukraine said today that it had shot down half-a-dozen Russian Kinzhal missiles in one night, in its biggest display of firepower yet. If the claim is confirmed, then this would be an exceptional success, as the Kinzhal is an almost unstoppable hypersonic missile — this would mean that the air defences installed by Ukraine with the help of Western allies have become formidable.
Oleksii Reznikov, Defence Minister of Ukraine, tweeted today: “Another unbelievable success for the Ukrainian Air Forces! Last night, our sky defenders shot down SIX Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and 12 other missiles.” Reznikov thanked the “partner states” for their help with securing the skies above Ukraine.
There were claims on social media that the Russian missiles were shot down with the “game-changer” Patriot missile defence system. However, there were also claims that the Kinzhal missiles had hit at least one of the Patriot surface-to-air missile defence systems delivered recently to Ukraine.
“Returning home with new defence packages”
Shortly before this, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he was “returning home with new defence packages”, “more new and powerful weapons for the frontline”, and “more political support”.
He posted this on Twitter late last night after a whirlwind three days in Europe, during which time he met several heads of state, appearing to get the warmest welcome from Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Addressing the media together yesterday, Zelenskyy thanked Sunak for being “together with us” and the UK’s support of Ukraine in the war unleashed by Russia. Sunak said that he and Zelenskyy had discussed the training of Ukrainian pilots soon.
The Independent reported that the UK prime minister pledged his help with building a ‘fighter jets coalition’ for the Ukraine president, but stopped short of promising any British fighter planes.
The UK has already given long-range Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, and has now agreed to host Ukrainian pilots and train them on Western aircraft.
Zelenskyy has been particularly keen on getting F-16s, one of the top fighter jet models in the world. Pilots from Ukraine need training on those aircraft and other Western aircraft, and the UK is offering that help. The training is expected to begin in Britain this summer, and British diplomatic efforts will support Ukraine in trying to get F-16s from other nations.
A press release from 10, Downing Street said: “The Prime Minister is working with partners in the G7, NATO and beyond to provide Ukraine with the kind of assurances and capabilities it needs to strengthen and guard its long-term security beyond the end of the war — putting Ukraine in the strongest possible position to seek a fair and lasting peace.”
The press release quoted Sunak as saying: “This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke. They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year.”
From the first month of the war, which Russia under President Vladimir Putin began in late February 2022, the Ukraine premier has been urging his NATO allies to supply weapons and other military equipment. He has repeatedly urged that his country be given Western fighter planes — the proposed ‘fighter jets coalition’ — and that the process of Ukraine’s entry into NATO be accelerated. The NATO membership for Ukraine was the reason that Russia invaded in the first place.
From the beginning, Zelenskyy has been very active on social media, using Twitter nonstop to publicise his interaction with the Western nations, to keep repeating his request for military aid, and to show the destruction of Ukraine by Russia.
Having withstood the onslaught from its huge neighbour for nearly 15 months now, Ukraine is planning a strong counter-offensive, but has said repeatedly that more weapons are needed for it to be a success.