Western air defenses turn Kyiv into a rare safe spot in war-torn Ukraine: #Politico
Inna Kozich, a communications specialist from Kyiv, still cries when she remembers the first weeks of last year's Russian siege of the Ukrainian capital.
“At one moment my kids and I slept in a corridor for three weeks. I was going to bed, not sure if we all wake up the next day,” Kozich remembers.
But the air defenses now protecting the capital make her feel safer in Kyiv than anywhere else in Ukraine — so much so that she's afraid of venturing beyond the city. “I was even afraid to take my kids for a summer vacation because I knew other regions unfortunately do not have as strong air defense as we now do. And I feel so much pain for Ukrainians from other regions, who are still forced to live under daily Russian bombardment,” Kozich said.
When the full-scale Russian invasion launched on February 24, 2022, a desperate President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for the West to close Ukraine's skies to Russian aviation and missiles. That didn't happen, but Ukraine's allies have steadily sent some of their best air defense systems to help protect the country's cities, and especially Kyiv.
When the war broke out, Kyiv relied on Soviet-era S-300 and Buk M1 medium-range anti-missile systems — a problem as replacement missiles are largely made by Russia.
Those defenses have now been beefed up by short-range Gepard systems from Germany and Avenger Short-Range Air Defense from the U.S. to knock down drones and cruise missiles. At medium range, Ukraine is using MIM-23 Hawks from the U.S. made by Raytheon; NASAMS, developed by Raytheon and Norway's Kongsberg; and Germany's IRIS-T SLM. Long-range defenses are provided by the U.S. Patriot PAC-3 and the Eurosam SAMP/T supplied by France and Italy.
Ukrainian air defense troops have shown they are capable of integrating modern systems with Soviet ones, Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, told POLITICO.
"We continue to expect support from allies and partners. We need more air defense. Diverse. And not only for the capital but also for every Ukrainian city. Each anti-aircraft missile complex is worth its weight in gold," Popko said.