US President Joe Biden has promised his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States will provide the country with advanced air systems after Russia launched missiles against multiple cities in Ukraine including the capital Kyiv.
Biden made the pledge in a phone call with Zelenskyy ahead of an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven to discuss support for Ukraine and how to hold Russia “accountable” for the attacks, which killed at least 14 people.
“President Biden pledged to continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems,” a White House statement on the phone call said.
Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington, said “these systems can attack drone, missiles and helicopters.”
Biden also told Zelenskyy the US and its allies and partners would continue imposing costs on Russia, “holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and providing Ukraine with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance”, the White House said.
Russia’s defence ministry said it had targeted “military command and communication facilities and energy infrastructure” in Monday’s attacks, but Ukraine accused Moscow of indiscriminately hitting civilian areas.
Ukrainian authorities said Russia fired 84 missiles against 10 cities, with 56 of them neutralised by air defences.
The Russian attacks followed an explosion on Saturday that damaged parts of the strategically-important Kerch bridge linking Russia with annexed Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the blast on Ukraine.
“Russia is seeking to overwhelm Ukrainian air defences,” Justin Crump, chief executive of security consultancy Sibylline, told the BBC. “That’s something they have tried throughout the conflict, but never on this scale.”
The US has provided security assistance to Ukraine worth more than $16.8bn since Russia invaded the country on February 24.