Slovakia has given its S-300 air defense system to Ukraine as part of its commitment to help the country secure its skies. This comes after repeated calls by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the West for more weaponry to help it repel attacks against the Russians, which is expected to launch another offensive on the Donbas region. It is reported that since the war began Ukraine’s armed forces have lost as many as 40 air defense gun, missile and radar platforms to Russian attacks.
Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced that he had decided to donate the S-300 under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which states that:
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
This donation comes after Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said they would be willing to donate their S-300s if they could be immediately replaced. This was one of the subjects SecDef Austin and Nad discussed during the latter’s visit to Slovakia last March 17.
Heger said that Slovakia is a country that supports peace, freedom, and human rights protection and that it was doing its part in promoting these ideals.
“We believe that this system will help save as many as possible innocent Ukrainians before another aggression of Putin’s regime,” he said. Heger clarified that Slovakia was not joining the armed conflict by donating the weapons and that their own territory would not be left vulnerable with the donation.
This comes after the Slovakian Prime Minister visited Ukraine with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They met with Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Smyhal to propose a plan of action for Ukraine. This involved helping the country gain an EU perspective to help with their application to the European Union, helping Ukraine transport grain to the entire world, and increasing Slovak humanitarian aid.
It seems that the talks were very fruitful as the S-300 was sent. The Prime Minister also visited the city of Bucha, where he described the aftermath of the massacre as a “devastated city and dozens of dead civilians who were brutally murdered,” which had affected him deeply. Here, he described Russia as “barbarians” and vowed that Slovakia would aid in investigating all war atrocities in Bucha.
Just a few hours ago, Russia claimed to have destroyed the aforementioned S-300 air defense systems near the city of Dnipro. Specifically, they claimed that 4 S-300s were destroyed along with 25 Ukrainian servicemen. They did not specify what country it was delivered from and just vaguely said that it was from a “European country.” This operation could not be independently verified as of writing.
“On Sunday, April 10, on the southern outskirts of the city of Dnepropetrovsk, high-precision sea-based Kalibr missiles destroyed an S-300 air defense system hidden in a hangar, which was delivered to the Kiev regime by one of the European countries,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a press briefing in Moscow.
My mission for #Kiev has been to reaffirm full support for a European perspective to our neighbour, #Ukraine. We will partner w/ @vonderleyen to help 🇺🇦 catch up. I feel encouraged by the words of @Denys_Shmyhal & @ZelenskyyUa. These guys have a winning mindset & this is the key! pic.twitter.com/dxz4MOtamw
— Eduard Heger (@eduardheger) April 8, 2022
They also claimed they had destroyed two Buk-M1s and Osa AKMs in Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk, along with 9 tanks, 5 self-propelled artillery, 5 multiple rocket launchers, 2 S-25 fighter jets, Mi-24 helicopters, and 4 UAVs.
However, Heger immediately denied that the S-300s were destroyed. Through a Facebook post, he said that the news was just Russian propaganda lies and that Ukraine had said it was “disinformation.” An official response from the Ukrainian government is not available during this time.
While the fate of the S-300s is unknown, what is known is that President Biden confirmed last Friday that the US would be sending a Patriot missile system to Slovakia to make up for the S-300s.
“I want to thank the Slovakian government for providing an S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, something President Zelenskyy has personally raised with me in our conversations,” Biden said through a statement. “To enable this transfer and ensure the continued security of Slovakia, the United States will reposition a US Patriot missile system to Slovakia.”
SecDef Austin said that the repositioning of the Patriot system to Slovakia would take place in the coming days. However, the length of the deployment has not been fixed and was not permanent.
During his meeting with Austin, Nad did mention that the Patriot system was not a permanent replacement for the S-300. However, he did admit that the S-300 was becoming increasingly inadequate due to its age and reliance issues. Another problem with having S-300s is that it would rely on Russia for maintenance and parts, which would not be permissible at this time of conflict.
As hard as it may be to believe given Russian losses so far, the Russians also know the weaknesses of the S-300 system and how to counter it.
Thus, Slovakia is looking to upgrade its air defense systems to those compatible with NATO allies.
“Slovakia needs to get rid of this dependence on Russia as soon as possible,” he expressed.
“We will try to replace it in the future with another system that would be fully compatible with our allies and would ensure a higher defense of the Slovak Republic,” Nad explained.
It is important to note that Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Greece also operate the S-300 system and could possibly donate these to Ukraine if required. Slovenia was also reported to be willing to donate its own S-300s to Ukraine; however, this could not be confirmed as of writing. Transfers similar to Slovakia would also entail that NATO allies provide another air defense system for the backfill it will create.
Slovakia’s donation comes just in time as the Russians had destroyed at least 21 Ukrainian S-300 launchers in seven weeks of fighting. By providing Ukraine with the necessary weapons and systems to protect its skies, Zelensky can impose his own no-fly zone without NATO’s direct intervention.