At a moment the Pentagon has vowed to "speed up" weapons deliveries to Ukraine forces, and after Slovakia announced early this week it is in discussion with NATO allies to provide Kiev with MiG-29 fighter jets, the Kremlin has repeated its warning that any weapons shipments entering the country will be viewed as "legitimate military targets".
The renewed warning was issued Wednesday by Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who told TASS news agency that the military stands ready to attack any US or NATO vehicles caught transporting weapons into the conflict.
"We are warning that US-NATO weapons transports across Ukrainian territory will be considered by us as legal military targets," said Ryabkov, after last month the Kremlin issued a similar warning. But this time the language has been narrowed to specifically put the US and NATO on notice, whereas previously this was left somewhat ambiguous.
He warned further that these attempts to inflict damage on Russian forces will be "harshly suppressed", explaining that...
"We are making the Americans and other Westerners understand that attempts to slow down our special operation, to inflict maximum damage on Russian contingents and formations of the DPR and LPR (Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics) will be harshly suppressed."
Ryabkov's words come days after the Kremlin said ship-fired cruise missiles destroyed S-300 anti-air systems which had been provided by a European country.
"Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Monday Russian Kalibr missiles destroyed on Sunday four S-300 launchers concealed in a hangar on the outskirts of the central-eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, hitting 25 Ukrainian soldiers in the attack," it was reported Monday based on state sources.
However, Slovakia - which had recently confirmed sending an S-300 system to Kiev - as well as Ukraine itself denied the Russian claims. Given the apparent delivery of such major systems to Ukraine, it's likely other European and NATO countries will join with sending heavier and heavier weaponry, also amid reports of Soviet-era tank transfers.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the Department of Defense is looking to further ramp up its own shipments to Kiev: "The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Administration is having weekly meetings of its European Crisis Management Team to review specific requests related to Ukraine," writes Reuters.
And the report notes things are about t speed up: "To speed up U.S. government approval for sales and transfers of arms produced by American defense contractors, the Pentagon has re-established a team to respond to the increased demand," according to Reuters.