In its first reaction to widespread reports that the White House is moving forward with plans to send Patriot anti-air missile defense systems to Ukraine, the Kremlin said the move will only serve to aggravate the conflict and warned against it, while Putin in new remarks teased more advanced Russian weapons to be deployed, including hypersonic missiles.
"Weapon supplies (by the U.S.) continue, the assortment of supplied weapons is expanding. All this, of course, leads to an aggravation of the conflict and, in fact, does not bode well for Ukraine," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
A formal White House announcement confirming that Ukraine will get Patriots is expected Wednesday while Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is meeting with President Biden to discuss the war, and ahead of Zelensky's expected 7:30pm EST address to Congress.
Ukraine sees the more advanced anti-air defenses as vital if it hopes to survive the now constant barrage of strikes targeting its national energy infrastructure, which has left millions without power amid freezing temperatures. At one point early this week, some 80% of the Kyiv region was without power, as rolling emergency blackouts continue nation-wide.
The Patriot missiles could be a game-changer given they have a maximum range of some 100 miles and are capable of downing ballistic missiles. Zelensky has long demanded that the US and NATO help "close the skies" over Ukraine.
It is likely to take some time to deploy the Patriots, given Ukrainians are expected to be trained on operating the sophisticated systems at the US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, per officials cited by CNN. There's also the "option" of NATO personnel manning the systems.
Moscow will likely as a result unleash more intense and escalatory airstrikes on Ukrainian cities and command and control bases in the interim, given the clock is ticking before the more effective Patriots get deployed.