- Ukrainians last week said they’d shot down a Russian hypersonic missile using a US Patriot system.
- Officials told CNN Friday the Patriot defense system was the target of the advanced missile attack.
- Putin had previously claimed the deadly Kinzhal missiles were unstoppable.
When Ukrainians shot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile last week, they used a Patriot defense system donated by the United States to destroy the munition that had been “wreaking havoc” on their military. But officials on Friday told CNN the defense system itself was the target of the attack — and the Patriot expertly defended itself.
In their first known successful intercept of a Kinzhal missile, Ukrainian forces fired at the Russian warhead from multiple directions using the Patriot system, one official told CNN, “demonstrating how quickly they have become adept at using the powerful system,” which was delivered to the country last month.
A representative for the Pentagon, in an email to Insider, referred to Department of Defense spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder’s press briefing on Tuesday, which confirmed Ukrainians “did down a Russian missile by employing the Patriot missile defense system” — but did not specify whether it was a Kinzhal — or “Killjoy” — missile.
“When it comes to Ukraine’s readiness, its inventory or details of missile intercepts, I’d refer you to them,” Ryder said, confirming the Patriot had been used though he offered no further details. “As you know, that system is part of a broader range of air defense capabilities that the United States and the international community have provided to Ukraine.”
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has long bragged about the Kinzhal missile’s capabilities, saying in 2018 its capacity to travel ten times faster than the speed of sound and maneuver at all phases of its flight trajectory “allows it to overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometers.”
Less than a month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was launched last year, President Joe Biden described the Kinzhal missiles as “wreaking havoc” on Ukrainian forces, saying: “it’s almost impossible to stop it,” and “there’s a reason they’re using it.”
The Patriot defense system was delivered to Ukraine on April 19, AP reported, as part of $36.9 billion in military aid the US has pledged since the beginning of the war to assist in the fight against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat described the delivery of the systems as a landmark event.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates 8,791 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and 14,815 injured since the war began last February. However, the figures are likely “considerably higher” given delays in receipt of information from areas facing intense hostilities, such as Mariupol and the Luhansk region.
Representatives for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and the Government of the Russian Federation did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.