Washington, Jun 12 (AP) The United States will send Ukraine another Patriot missile system, two US officials said Tuesday, answering Kyiv's desperate calls for more air defences as it battles an intense Russian assault on the northeastern Kharkiv region.

The officials said President Joe Biden has approved the move. It would be the second Patriot system that the US has given to Ukraine, although the Pentagon has routinely provided an undisclosed number of missiles for the system. Other allies, including Germany, also have provided air defense systems as well as munitions for them.

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The two US officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been publicly announced. The decision was first reported by The New York Times.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy late last month pleaded for additional US-made Patriot systems, arguing that they will help his forces fight the close to 3,000 bombs that he said Russia launches into the country every month.

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Speaking in Madrid, Zelenskyy said Ukraine still urgently needs another seven of the systems to fend off Russian strikes against the power grid and civilian areas, as well as military targets, with devastating glide bombs that wreak wide destruction.

He said Ukraine needs two of the systems to protect Kharkiv, where Russia launched a cross-border offensive on May 10 that still has Ukrainian troops reeling.

“If we had these modern Patriot systems, (Russian) airplanes wouldn't be able to fly close enough to drop the (glide) bombs on the civilian population and the military,” Zelenskyy told a news conference in the Spanish capital.

The decision comes as defense leaders from the US, Europe and other nations prepare for their monthly meeting on Ukraine's security needs. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host the meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

The U.S. has routinely pressed for allies to provide air defense systems to Ukraine, but many are reluctant to give up the high-tech systems — particularly countries in eastern Europe that also feel threatened by Russia.

The U.S. also is wary of giving too many away, since they are used all over the world to protect U.S. forces and allies.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Monday that Ukraine's need for air defense will be a topic at the meeting. (AP)

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