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War in Ukraine: F-16 transfer begins, Kyiv on ‘irreversible’ path to NATO membership

War in Ukraine: F-16 transfer begins, Kyiv on ‘irreversible’ path to NATO membership

War in Ukraine: F-16 transfer begins, Kyiv on ‘irreversible’ path to NATO membership

They are eagerly awaited by the Ukrainian President and his General Staff. “I am pleased to report that, as we speak, the transfer of F-16 aircraft is continuing (to Ukraine), from Denmark and the Netherlands,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Washington. “These aircraft will be flying over Ukraine this summer to ensure that Ukraine can continue to effectively defend itself against Russian aggression,” he added at a panel discussion.

The decision comes as all 32 NATO countries agreed to acknowledge that Ukraine is on an “irreversible path” to joining the Atlantic alliance, diplomats said. The declaration must still be formally adopted by NATO leaders, AFP reported.

The White House statement also said Belgium and Norway had pledged to provide additional aircraft as part of a coalition of countries supplying the jets to Ukraine. Kyiv hopes the American-made fighters will help it better protect its troops and cities from daily Russian bombing.

Ukrainian pilots completed training abroad

Ukraine began requesting F-16s shortly after Russia invaded in February 2022, and Ukrainian pilots have undergone months of training in NATO countries, including the United States. Joe Biden gave in-principle approval for third-party deployments of the jets in May 2023. Several Atlantic alliance member states have committed to providing the devices, which are praised for their precision, speed and autonomy.

“The F-16s bring a just and lasting peace closer by demonstrating that terror must fail everywhere and always,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded on social media. The leader, who was in Washington, said he was “grateful” to his allies that the F-16s would be able to “strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses.” “I am convinced that they will help us better protect Ukrainians from Russia’s brutal attacks, such as this week’s strike on the Okhmatdet children’s hospital in Kyiv,” he wrote on social media X.

In an interview with AFP in May, Volodymyr Zelensky estimated that Ukraine would need about 130 aircraft to have air parity with Russia. But Western countries have promised fewer than 100.

Russia, for its part, has warned that its forces will target all Western military equipment, including F-16s, being delivered to Ukraine. The top U.S. diplomat went on to say that the delivery of these aircraft should “make Russian President Vladimir Putin think” that he will not outlive Ukraine, that he will not outlive us, and that if this continues, the damage that will continue to be done to Russia and its interests will only get worse.”

Source: Le Parisien

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