France, Italy close to deal on supplying air defence system to Ukraine -sources

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Italy are close to finalising the technical details to supply an SAMP/T air defence system to Ukraine, two diplomatic sources said on Thursday, although it was unclear how quickly a final decision would come.

Russia sent Ukrainian civilians racing for cover with a rush-hour missile barrage on Thursday, killing at least one person, the day after Kyiv secured Western pledges of dozens of modern battlefield tanks to try to push back the Russian invasion.

Kyiv has asked its Western allies for more air defence systems and specifically requested the SAMP/T, known as Mamba, in November.

France's Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu will travel to Italy on Friday to meet his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto, with both sides wanting to push ahead with the SAMP/T talks.

"We are finalising it with the Italians. It's not very far off," said a French diplomatic source.

The system, a joint Franco-Italian consortium can track dozens of targets and intercept 10 at once and is the only European-made system that can intercept ballistic missiles.

"A political decision was made. It's now just finalising the technical details because it's a complicated system," said a second diplomat, adding that the expectation was that French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni would make the decision official.

A third official said technical talks were ongoing.

Paris has previously supplied Mistral shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine and the Crotale short-range anti-air missiles, which are used to intercept low-flying missiles and aircraft.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by David Gregorio)