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After tank promises, Ukraine seeks Western fighter jets


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine is pushing its Western allies to supply it with fighter jets, a week after winning pledges of sophisticated modern tanks to help him repel the invading Russian force after almost a year of fighting.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was expected in Paris on Tuesday where talks about the possible delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine should be on the agenda.

After months of haggling, Ukrainian officials last week persuaded their Western allies to send the tanks. This decision was taken despite the hesitation and caution of some NATO members, including the United States and Germany.

There was no indication that a decision on fighter jets to Ukraine could come anytime soon and no sign that Western countries had changed their previous position on the matter. Some Western leaders have expressed concern that the move could escalate the nearly year-long conflict and drag them deeper into war.

The British government, which has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest diplomatic backers and military contractors, said sending in its fighter jets was “impractical”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman Max Blain said “British Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets are extremely sophisticated and take months to learn to fly”.

“Given this, we believe it is impractical to send these planes to Ukraine,” he said on Tuesday, although he did not say the UK was opposed to it. what other countries send planes.

Asked by a reporter on Monday whether his administration was considering sending Ukrainian F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, US President Joe Biden said “no”.

Kyiv officials have repeatedly urged their allies to send jets, claiming that they are essential to challenge Russia’s air superiority and to ensure the success of future counter-offensives which may be carried out by tanks recently promised by Western countries.

Ukraine’s allies have also ruled out supplying Kyiv with long-range missiles capable of striking Russian territory, signaling an equally cautious stance on fighter jets.

Asked on Tuesday about Western arms supplies to Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated the Kremlin’s view that “NATO has long been directly involved in hybrid warfare against Russia.”

He added after talks in Moscow with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry that the Russian military “will take all necessary measures to derail the realization of Western plans”.

He said Shoukry had conveyed a message from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about Ukraine, which repeated Washington’s previous calls for Russia to step down.

Lavrov said: “Russia is ready to hear any serious proposals – I want to emphasize this word – aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the current situation.”

Both Ukraine and Russia are believed to be building up their arsenals for an expected offensive in the coming months. The war was largely stalemate on the battlefield during the winter.

As in previous debates on how to help Ukraine, Poland is one of the main advocates of military aid within the European Union. Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic countries on NATO’s eastern flank feel particularly threatened by Russia.

Asked about Lithuania’s call for fighter jets and long-range missiles for Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the comments “reflected an aggressive approach taken by the Baltic countries and Poland, who are ready to do anything to provoke a new escalation without thinking of the consequences”. ”

“It is very sad that the leaders of major European countries who drive the European agenda do not play a balancing role to offset such extremist inclinations,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France did not rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but he laid down several conditions before such a major step could be taken.

The conditions, he said, include not leading to an escalation of tensions or using the plane “to touch Russian soil”, and not to weaken “the capabilities of the French military”.

He also said Ukraine must also formally request the planes, which could happen when Reznikov sits down for talks in Paris.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared to balk at the idea of ​​providing fighter jets, suggesting on Sunday that the reason for all the talk may be due to “national political motives” in some countries.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday that there were “no taboos” in efforts to help Ukraine. But he added that sending jets “would be a very big next step”.

The president of Croatia, a NATO member, meanwhile criticized Western countries for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons. President Zoran Milanovic supported that these arms deliveries will only prolong the war.

Earlier in the conflict, discussions focused on the possibility of supplying Kyiv with Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets familiar to Ukrainian pilots. In March, the Pentagon rejected Poland’s proposal to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv via a US base in Germany, citing a high risk of triggering a Russia-NATO escalation.

Western warplanes would offer Ukraine a major boost, but countering Russia’s huge air force would still be a major challenge.

Ukraine inherited a large fleet of Soviet-made warplanes, including Su-27 and MiG-29 fighter jets and Su-25 ground attack aircraft.

Switching to Western aircraft would require a long training of Ukrainian crews and also pose logistical problems related to their maintenance and repair.

Russia methodically targeted Ukrainian air bases and air defense batteries at the start of the conflict, but Ukraine was smart in moving its fighter jets and concealing air defense assets, which prevented the Russia to take full control of the skies.

After suffering heavy losses early in the conflict, the Russian Air Force avoided venturing deep into Ukrainian airspace and focused primarily on close support missions along the line of fire. forehead.

The Ukrainian Air Force has faced similar challenges, trying to keep its remaining fighter jets from being hit by Russian fighter jets and air defense systems.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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