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After tank pledges, Ukraine seeks Western fighter jets

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine is pushing its Western allies to supply fighter jets, a week after winning pledges of advanced modern tanks. to help it defeat the Russian invasion force after nearly a year of fighting.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksey Reznikov is due in Paris on Tuesday where discussions are taking place over the possible delivery of fighter jets. To Ukraine was expected to be on the agenda.

After months of bargaining, the Ukrainian authorities last week persuaded the Western allies to send tanks. This decision came despite the hesitation and caution of some NATO members, including the United States and Germany.

There was no indication that the decision to send warplanes to Ukraine might come any time soon, and there was no indication that Western countries had changed their previous position on the issue. Some Western leaders have expressed concern that the move could escalate the nearly year-old conflict and drag them deeper into war.

The UK government, which has been one of Kiev’s staunchest diplomatic backers and military suppliers, has said sending its fighter jets is “impractical”.

“The British Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets are so advanced they take months to learn how to fly,” said Max Blaine, spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“Given that, we think it is not practical to send those planes to Ukraine,” he said on Tuesday, though he did not say the UK was against other countries sending planes.

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

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Kyiv officials repeatedly urged the allies to send planes, Saying they are needed to challenge Russia’s air supremacy and to ensure the success of the future tank-led counter-attacks that Western countries have recently promised.

Ukraine’s allies have also ruled out supplying long-range missiles capable of hitting Russian territory to Kyiv, signaling a similarly cautious attitude about warplanes.

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

After Moscow’s talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, he added that the Russian army “will take all necessary measures to obstruct the implementation of Western plans.”

He said that Shoukry conveyed a message from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken regarding Ukraine that reiterated previous calls from Washington for Russia to withdraw.

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

It is believed that both Ukraine and Russia are building up their arsenals for an expected attack in the coming months. The war largely stalemated on the battlefield during the winter season.

As in previous discussions about how to help Ukraine, Poland is a leading advocate in the EU for providing military assistance. Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern side 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 “reflect an aggressive approach taken by the Baltic states and Poland, which are ready to do everything to provoke further escalation without thinking about the consequences.”

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“It is sad that the leaders of the major European countries who lead the European agenda do not play a balanced role to compensate for such extremist tendencies,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France does not rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but he set multiple conditions before taking such an important step.

He said the conditions included not escalating tensions or using planes to “touch Russian territory,” and not weakening “the capabilities of the French army.”

He also said Ukraine should also formally order the planes, something that could happen when Reznikov sits down for talks in Paris.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared to dismiss the prospect of providing fighter jets, suggesting on Sunday that the reason for the whole discussion might be due to “domestic political motives” in some countries.

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

Meanwhile, the Croatian president, a NATO member, criticized Western countries for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons. President Zoran Milanovic argued Handing over those weapons will only prolong the war.

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

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Western warplanes will give Ukraine a huge boost, but countering Russia’s massive air force will still be a huge challenge.

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

Switching to Western aircraft would require Ukrainian crews to undergo lengthy training, and would also raise logistical challenges associated with maintaining and repairing them.

Russia systematically targeted Ukrainian air bases and air defense batteries in the initial phase of the conflict, but Ukraine was clever in moving its warplanes and concealing air defense assets, which resulted in Russia failing to fully control the skies.

After suffering heavy losses early on during the conflict, the Russian Air Force has avoided venturing deep into Ukrainian airspace and has focused mostly on close support missions along the front line.

The Ukrainian Air Force faced similar challenges, as it tried to save its remaining warplanes from being hit by Russian fighter jets and air defense systems.

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