Zelenskiy Asks Blinken for Patriot Air Defenses for Kharkiv

(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to the US for air-defense batteries to shield its second-biggest city as Russia launched a large-scale offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

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“We need, today, two Patriots for Kharkiv,” Zelenskiy told Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting in Kyiv, referring to the US-made anti-missile defense system.

Blinken is using a visit to reassure Kyiv and the rest of Europe of President Joe Biden’s support repelling Russia after a lengthy political fight on Capitol Hill over a $61 billion aid package. America’s top diplomat also used the visit to call for continued government reforms to stamp out corruption and boost foreign investments needed for postwar reconstruction.

Read More: Blinken Visits Ukraine in Effort to Assure Kyiv of US Backing

Ukraine has sent reinforcements to the northeastern frontline as President Vladimir Putin’s troops attempt to push deeper into the region after weeks of intensified airstrikes on Kharkiv.

The US and its partners aim to ensure Ukraine’s near-term success on the battlefield and its long-term self-sufficiency and economic viability, Blinken said, calling the latter “the best rebuke to Putin and the best possible guarantor” of Ukraine’s future.

Read More: Ukraine Military Spy Chief Says Russian Kharkiv Push Has Slowed

Russia has deployed a significant force of as many as five battalions, equivalent to about 2,000 soldiers, in a drive toward the northeastern town of Vovchansk, Ukraine’s top military command said on Facebook Monday. Success in driving Ukraine back in Kharkiv would take the Russian city of Belgorod and military strongholds and supply hubs in the surrounding area out of Ukrainian artillery range.

The assault is likely to stretch Ukraine’s already outgunned and out-manned forces and may push Kyiv to redeploy some of its troops from the long front line in the east.

In a speech later Tuesday in Kyiv, Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukraine’s defense and the longer-term goal of joining the NATO alliance. He also highlighted the need for continued government reforms to curb corruption and reinforce democratic institutions.

“Winning on the battlefield will prevent Ukraine from becoming part of Russia,” Blinken said in a speech. “Winning the war against corruption will keep Ukraine from becoming like Russia.”

--With assistance from Reinie Booysen.

(Updates with Blinken comments in third and final two paragraphs.)

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