- The first deliveries of US-made F-16 jets are expected in the new year
- Russia has warned that the decision could escalate the conflict
- Ukraine says the F-16 will help deter airstrikes against troops
COPENHAGEN, Aug 21 (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday that a decision by Denmark and the Netherlands to donate its first F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would escalate the conflict, while Ukraine said the jets would help end Moscow’s invasion.
Denmark and the Netherlands announced Sunday the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine, with the initial six to be delivered in the New Year. Washington approved the delivery of the US-made jets last week.
“Denmark’s decision to donate 19 F-16s to Ukraine now leads to an escalation of the conflict,” Russian Ambassador Vladimir Barbin said in a statement cited by the Rytsau news agency.
“Hiding behind the premise that Ukraine should decide the conditions for peace, Denmark is trying with its actions and words to leave Ukraine with no choice but to continue the military conflict with Russia,” he said.
Kiev said the jet was vital to the success of its bid to drive Russian forces from its border in a counteroffensive that has been slow since it was launched in early June, as it would prevent Russian warplanes from attacking advancing forces.
“Superiority in the air is the key to victory on the ground,” Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said, according to Ukrainian media.
Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said Ukraine could only use the donated F-16s within its own territory.
“We are donating weapons under the condition that they are used to drive the enemy out of the territory of Ukraine. Nothing more,” Elleman-Jensen said on Monday.
“Tanks, fighter jets or something else, those are the conditions,” he said.
Denmark will provide a total of 19 jets. The Netherlands has 42 F-16s but has not yet decided whether all of them will be donated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the decision a “breakthrough agreement”.
Ukrainian pilots have begun training, but training engineers and mechanics will take at least six months and more, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Saturday.
Report by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Philippa Fletcher
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