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The US government is consulting with a number of allies on ways to boost Ukraine’s air defence capabilities as reports surface that Russia could be dropping “dumb munitions”, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
A senior US defence official said discussions are continuing with a number of countries on ways to boost Ukraine’s air defences.
The US is “actively having discussions with allies and partners who have systems that we believe could be useful to the Ukrainians, to include air defence”, the official said.
In a closed address to Congress last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly made a request for Washington to allow Poland and Romania to transfer Soviet-era jets to Kyiv in return for F-16 US planes.
The US official confirmed that Ukraine is looking to receive MiG-29 Russian aircraft from Poland but did not commit Washington to any part of the proposed deal.
“President [Zelenskyy] made it clear he wants them. It would be more appropriate to let them speak to what they would do with them and what their capabilities are.”
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby issued a statement rejecting an aircraft transfer via a US airbase in Germany, saying the prospect of the jets flying from a US-Nato base “into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire Nato alliance”.
“We will continue to consult with Poland and our other Nato allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” Mr Kirby added.
Russia had warned last week of taking offensive action against any country hosting aircraft bound for Ukraine.
Ukraine had also made a request to purchase Israel's Iron Dome air defence system, Yedioth Ahronoth reported last month, but the request was rejected by the Israeli government.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed that two Patriot anti-missile batteries have arrived in Poland but insisted the move is purely for defensive purposes and in line with Nato guidelines.
The Pentagon said it has “indications that the Russians are in fact dropping some dumb munitions”, or unguided bombs, over Ukraine.
“What we see manifested is increasing damage to civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties,” it reported.
Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of attacking a children’s hospital in Mariupol on Wednesday. Mr Zelenskyy shared footage of the strike and called once again for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The US has reported “stiff resistance” in the cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv and assessed that Russia has fired more than 700 missiles since the start of the war.
Asked about the possibility of an attack on the port city of Odesa, the Pentagon said it has no indications of “an imminent amphibious assault” there.