Live Updates: Russia invades Ukraine

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A group of retired senior US Army officers and former defense chiefs from three Eastern European countries advocate providing the Ukrainian military with air defense capabilities to defend against attacks by the Russian Air Force, according to an open letter obtained by CNN.

Providing the Ukrainians with such weapons would be effective in enabling them to shoot down planes or missiles in their airspace, and this is something the Ukrainians have specifically asked the United States and Western countries to provide.

“The purpose of this letter is to urge, in the strongest possible sense, immediate action to provide the Armed Forces of Ukraine with a viable medium and high altitude air defense capability. They need immediate reconstitution their ability to defend against Russian Air Force air attacks,” the retired military officials wrote. “We cannot sit idly by and wish them well as Russia pursues a campaign of unrestricted destruction against the Ukrainian government, its infrastructure and its people.”

The move is expected to prevent the creation of a no-fly zone, which the United States and NATO have so far refused to support due to fears it could drag the alliance into a war with an armed power. of nuclear weapons.

Earlier this week, 27 foreign policy experts released an open letter calling on the Biden administration and the international community to establish a limited no-fly zone in Ukraine surrounding humanitarian corridors.

Retired military leaders say NATO’s decision to reject a no-fly zone was “devastating to the Ukrainian government and the morale of the people”. They go on to claim that providing the medium and high altitude air defense capability would prevent the Russians from dominating “Ukrainian airspace while devastating Ukrainian cities.”

They note that “some nations have air defense systems similar to those previously destroyed in the early days of the Russian campaign. These countries could transfer existing stockpiles of Soviet-era and Russian-produced weapon systems to include radars. Other countries can buy them on the international market and expedite their delivery to Ukraine.

This proposal may have a better chance of success than the establishment of a no-fly zone because providing the Ukrainian military with advanced air defense capabilities,

The Ukrainians already have some S300 missile systems – which are a type of air defense – which means they are trained in how to operate them. The Croatians and few other NATO countries have S300s in their inventory.

Turkey could use this opportunity to offload the S400s it bought from Russia, a purchase that has created deep tensions within the NATO alliance.

The signatories of the letter: These include General Phillip M. Breedlove, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

The former defense chiefs of three Eastern European countries also signed the letter, Lt. Gen. Raimonds of Latvia; Lieutenant General Vytautas Jonas Žukas of Lithuania and General Riho Terras of Estonia.

A number of key former U.S. Special Operations Forces leaders also signed the letter, including Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, former deputy commander of Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral Sean Pybus, former deputy commander the Special Operations Command; Lieutenant General Francis M. Beaudette, former Commanding General, Army Special Operations Command, and Major General Michael S. Repass, former Commander, Special Operations Command Europe.

CNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling was also a signatory to the letter.

More background: Their letter comes just a day after Ukraine’s parliament speaker called for surface-to-air defense systems, no-fly zones over critical areas and fighter jets for Ukraine in a letter to US lawmakers. Tuesday, according to the letter reviewed by CNN.

President Ruslan Stefanchuk said there was a need for “appropriate military assistance to counter Russian attacks and military advances”, citing the Iron Dome as an example of the military equipment Ukraine has need.

Asked about providing this kind of additional military assistance to Ukraine’s State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told lawmakers some of this might be possible, but cited challenges with some very advanced equipment.

“I would just say as far as Iron Dome goes, you can’t just, you know, snap your fingers and you have an Iron Dome. It takes training, it takes the ability to set it up and all that kind of stuff. But there are other things on your list, on their list, that we think we can do,” Nuland said. She added that she could go into more detail in a classified setting.

Read the full letter below:

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