Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1
In this file photo, German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defence Wing 1, fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation, in Chania, Greece. Image Credit: AP

Kyiv, Ukraine: Russia's Foreign Ministry warned Thursday that if the U.S. delivers sophisticated air defence systems to Ukraine, those systems and any crews that accompany them would be a “legitimate target” for the Russian military, a blunt threat that was quickly rejected by Washington.

The exchange of statements reflected soaring Russia-US tensions amid the fighting in Ukraine, which is now in its 10th month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the US had “effectively become a party” to the war by providing Ukraine with weapons and training its troops.

She added that if reports about US intentions to provide Kyiv with Patriot surface-to-air missile system prove true, it would become “another provocative move by the US” and broaden its involvement in the hostilities, "entailing possible consequences.”

“Any weapons systems supplied to Ukraine, including the Patriot, along with the personnel servicing them, have been and will remain legitimate priority targets for the Russian armed forces,” Zakharova declared.