Dutch boost for Ukraine with fighter jets support

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shake hands during a visit to the Eindhoven Military Air Base.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte shake hands during a visit to the Eindhoven Military Air Base. Photo: Getty

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in the Netherlands in an ongoing push to boost Ukraine’s air defences, days after the United States approved the possible delivery of F-16 fighter jets by the Netherlands and Denmark.

The Netherlands, together with Denmark, has in recent months led international efforts to train Ukrainian pilots for F-16s and to ultimately deliver the jets to help counter the air superiority of Russia, whose forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“The main issue is F-16 for Ukraine to protect our people from Russian terror”, Mr Zelensky said in a post on Telegram.

“We are getting stronger.”

The agenda also includes the Global Peace Summit and bringing Russia to justice, Zelensky said.

Mr Zelensky met outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a military air base in Eindhoven, Rutte’s office said without providing further details.

Rutte said in May the Netherlands was seriously considering handing over F-16s fighter jets, but it’s unclear how many they would have available and when.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Saturday said training had begun for Ukrainians to operate F-16s but added it would take at least six months and possibly longer to also train engineers and mechanics.

Training will take place in Denmark and Romania, officials from a coalition of 11 nations have said.

Ukraine, which expects several dozens pilots to be trained, said last week it did not expect to be able to use F-16s this autumn or winter.

The Netherlands could deliver F-16s as its armed forces are transitioning to newer F-35 fighters.

According to figures from the Dutch defence ministry, the Netherlands has 24 operational F-16s that will be phased out by mid-2024.

Another 18 of the jets made by Lockheed Martin are currently available for sale, of which 12 have been provisionally sold.

On Saturday, Mr Zelensky was in Sweden where he discussed the possibility of receiving Gripen jets.

Mr Zelensky’s visit to The Netherlands came as Russia said Ukrainian drones had struck three separate regions on Sunday, injuring five people and forcing two of Moscow’s airports to briefly divert flights.

Russia’s Kursk and Rostov regions, both of which border Ukraine, reported drone strikes while Russia’s defence ministry said it had jammed a Ukrainian drone in the Moscow region, forcing it to crash in an unpopulated area.

Russia’s aviation watchdog said it had briefly halted flights to the city’s Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports in response.

Kursk region’s governor said five people had been injured and a fire broke out when a drone hit a railway station.

Rostov’s governor said no injuries or damage had occurred.

Ukrainian drone strikes both on border regions and on the Russian capital have become increasingly common in recent months, with repeated strikes on Moscow’s financial district.

Russia said in May two Ukrainian drones tried to attack the Kremlin.

Ukraine typically does not comment on who is behind attacks on Russian territory, although officials have publicly expressed satisfaction with them.


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