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Western allies disagree over planes for Ukraine, while Russia claims gains

Western allies disagree over planes for Ukraine, while Russia claims gains
  • Biden said “no” when asked about the F-16s for Ukraine
  • Zelensky: Moscow is seeking a big revenge
  • The Russian official claimed a foothold at Vuhledar
  • Kyiv could regain control of the land upon the arrival of Western weapons – a group

Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defense minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet President Emmanuel Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after US President Joe Biden ruled out giving the F-16 a second.

An adviser to Defense Minister Oleksey Reznikov said on Friday that Ukraine plans to push for the purchase of fourth-generation Western fighters such as the F-16 after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week.

Asked at the White House on Monday whether the United States would provide the F-16s, Biden told reporters: “No.”

But France and Poland appear ready to accede to any such request from Ukraine, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military aid.

In remarks broadcast on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed that any such step would depend on several factors, including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that planes would not “touch Russian territory.” He said Reznikov will also meet his French counterpart, Sebastien Licorne, in Paris on Tuesday.

In Poland on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also did not rule out the possibility of supplying F-16s to neighboring Ukraine, in response to a question from a reporter before Biden’s speech.

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Morawiecki said in remarks posted on his website that any such transfer would take place in “full coordination” with NATO countries.

Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, noted “positive signals” from Poland and said France “does not rule out” such a move in separate posts on his Telegram channel.

Biden’s comment came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had begun to avenge Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east, where it appears to be making increasing gains.

Zelensky has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to escalate its offensive after nearly two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.

Ukraine got a big boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to introduce heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock over the issue.

While there was no indication of a new, broader Russian offensive, Russian forces had gained a foothold in Vohlidar, a coal-mining town whose ruins were once a Ukrainian stronghold, said the administrative official for Russian-held parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, Denis Pushlin. Since the beginning of the war.

Pushlin said that despite the “heavy losses”, Ukrainian forces were strengthening their positions at industrial facilities.

battle per meter

Pushlin said that the Ukrainian forces are receiving reinforcements in the cities of Bakhmut, Marinka and Vohlidar, from the north to the southwest of Donetsk. The official Russian news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces are making progress there, but “it is not clear, that is, there is a battle for literally every meter.”

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Ukraine still controls Marinka and Vohlidar, said Ukrainian military analyst Olli Zhdanov, as Russian attacks were less severe on Monday.

Jan Gagin, an advisor to Pushlin, said fighters from the Russian mercenary force Wagner had partially taken control of a supply route leading to the city of Bakhmut, which had been the focus of Moscow’s attention for months.

A day earlier, Wagner’s chief said his fighters had secured the village of Blahodatny, north of Bakhmut, although Kyiv said it had repulsed attacks on Blahodatny.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports. But the reported locations of the fighting indicated clear, albeit gradual, Russian gains.

The Ukrainian General Staff said that Russian forces bombed more than 40 settlements in the Zaporizhia region in the center of the country and in the southern Kherson region. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.

The Russians also launched four missile attacks on Ochakiv, in southern Mykolaiv, the military said, on the day Zelensky met the Danish prime minister in the city of Mykolaiv, to the northeast.

Western delays

Zelensky is urging the West to expedite the delivery of its promised weapons so that Ukraine can go on the offensive, but most of the tanks Western countries have pledged are still months away from delivery.

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said that 14 Challenger tanks donated by Britain will be on the front line around April or May, without giving a specific timetable.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Western countries providing arms lead to “NATO countries increasingly getting involved in the conflict – but they do not have the ability to change the course of events and will not.”

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The US-based Institute for the Study of War said the “failure of the West to provide the necessary hardware” last year was the main reason why Kyiv’s advance had stalled since November.

The researchers said in a report that Ukraine could still reclaim the territory once the promised weapons arrived.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect itself from its neighbor’s relations with the West, has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions from their homes.

Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Doina Chiacco and Stephen Coates. Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Simon Cameron-Moore

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