Zelensky hails ‘historic’ decision to hand F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday hailed on a visit to the Netherlands a “historic” decision to supply F-16 fighter jets to strengthen Ukraine’s Soviet-era air force.
It came two days after the United States approved the transfer to Ukraine of Dutch as well as Danish US-made warplanes, a key demand by Kyiv as it seeks greater firepower from allies during a grinding counteroffensive against Russia.
Zelensky landed at a Dutch airforce base in Eindhoven at around midday (1000 GMT), a Dutch government spokesperson told AFP, and inspected the aircraft shortly after.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte rubber-stamped the deliveries, saying: “The Netherlands and Denmark commit to transfer F-16s to Ukraine once the conditions for such a transfer have been met.”
The decision is “absolutely historic, powerful and inspiring for us,” Zelensky said at a press conference with Rutte.
“This is another step towards strengthening Ukraine’s air shield.”
Details of the aircraft delivery to Ukraine have not been unveiled.
The Dutch and the Danes are leading a plan to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the US-made aircraft as part of an 11-nation coalition, with training potentially complete by early 2024.
Washington has strict rules on the sale or transfer of US military equipment by its allies.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow will regard Western F-16 fighter jets sent to Ukraine as a “nuclear” threat because of their capacity to carry atomic weapons.
Zelensky was in Sweden on Saturday, finalising with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson the production of СV90 armoured vehicles in Ukraine and Ukrainian pilots participating in test trials of Swedish Gripen fighter jets.
– Drones downed in Russia –
Russia said it thwarted Ukrainian drone attacks on Moscow and its region on Sunday, the second such incident in two days.
Both sides have reported regular drone incursions during the conflict, with strikes on Russian territory becoming increasingly regular.
“At around 4:00 am (0100 GMT), an attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist attack by drone on infrastructure in Moscow and the Moscow region was thwarted,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.
The Moscow-bound drone was destroyed by “electronic warfare” and crashed into an uninhabited area after losing control, the ministry added, reporting no victims or damage.
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