Russia says F-16s will escalate Ukraine war; Kyiv says they will tip the scales in her favour

  • The first US-made F-16s are expected to be delivered by the new year
  • Russia warns that the decision will lead to an escalation of the conflict
  • Ukraine says the F-16s will help deter air attacks on its forces

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday that a decision by Denmark and the Netherlands to donate its first F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would only escalate the conflict, while Ukraine said the planes would help end Moscow’s invasion.

Denmark and the Netherlands announced Sunday that they will supply Ukraine with F-16s, with deliveries of the first six scheduled around the new year. Washington agreed to deliver the US-made planes last week.

“The fact that Denmark has now decided to donate 19 F-16s to Ukraine leads to an escalation of the conflict,” Russian Ambassador Vladimir Barbin said in a statement carried by the Ritzau news agency.

“Hiding behind the premise that Ukraine itself should determine the terms of peace, Denmark seeks with its actions and words to leave Ukraine with no other choice but to continue the military confrontation with Russia,” he said.

Kiev said the plane was vital to the success of its attempt to drive Russian forces from its territory, in a counter-attack that has slowly continued since its launch in early June, because it would prevent Russian fighter jets from attacking advancing forces.

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“Superiority in the air is the key to success on the ground,” Ukrainian media quoted Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ikhnat as saying.

Danish Defense Minister Jakob Elliman Jensen said that Ukraine may only use the donated F-16s within its territory.

“We donate weapons on the condition that they be used to expel the enemy from the territory of Ukraine. Nothing more,” Elman Jensen said on Monday.

“These are the conditions, whether it’s tanks or fighter jets or something else,” he said.

Denmark will deliver 19 aircraft in total. The Netherlands has 42 F-16s available worldwide but has not yet decided whether to donate them all.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the decision a “breakthrough agreement”.

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Saturday that Ukrainian pilots had begun training, but that it would take at least six months and possibly more to train the engineers and mechanics.

Additional reporting by Jakob Grunholt Pedersen and Pavel Politiuk; Editing by Angus McSwan and Philippa Fletcher

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