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Residents Of Russian Region Bordering Ukraine Urged To Leave

KYIV — Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren says Ukraine should receive its first F-16 fighter jets this summer as Europe pushes to aid Kyiv amid complications sparked by a stalled aid package in the U.S. Congress.
Ollongren told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian …

KYIV -- Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren says Ukraine should receive its first F-16 fighter jets this summer as Europe pushes to aid Kyiv amid complications sparked by a stalled aid package in the U.S. Congress.

Ollongren told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service during a visit to Kyiv on March 21 that a plan to deliver 24 F-16s jets is on track, with the first aircraft coming from Denmark.

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"I think we are on track to see deliveries, first Danish this summer, and then we're going to scale up," she said while declining to give the exact number of planes involved in the first delivery.

"We know that we will start with the Danish F-16s, that is now in our planning and in the Ukrainian planning. And in the end, I mean, it doesn't matter anymore. If it's a Dutch or Danish or Norwegian F-16 because [the planes are] going to be Ukrainian."

The arrival of the fighter jets will be a long-awaited development to help Kyiv fill a crucial hole in its defense capabilities.

Russia has used its more advanced and more numerous jets to repeatedly bomb Ukrainian cities, slow its counteroffensive, and threaten its ships exporting grain crucial to its economic survival, making Kyiv’s acquisition of modern U.S. jets a key ingredient to its successful defense of the country.

Ukraine inherited an aging fleet of Soviet MiG and Sukhoi jets that lack the strike depth and technology of modern Russian jets, putting Kyiv at a significant disadvantage in the war. Ukraine also has a much smaller fleet than Russia.

The more advanced F-16s would allow Ukrainian pilots to strike deep into Russian controlled areas and with great accuracy, intercept missiles that have terrorized Ukraine cities, and take on Russian jets that threaten its shipping lanes.

Ollongren said the key to the effectiveness of the jets will be the training of both pilots and technical staff to ensure they operate at peak performance.

"It is of no use if you don't know how to use [them] most effectively, and that requires training and that requires the right people for the maintenance and the right infrastructure. So when you get [them], you know that you will be able to use [them]," she said.

"So once...Ukraine gets the F-16, everything has to be in place, including, of course, how to protect them."

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the country has been backed by the United States, the European Union, and other Western allies.

But a new $60-billion aid package to Ukraine has been stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives as Republican lawmakers demand deep changes to domestic immigration policy.

With Washington's funding spigots turned off for the time being, the European Union has been moving to increase its assistance.

Earlier this week, the European Council approved the creation of the Ukraine Assistance Fund (UAF) and earmarked 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) for it to be used for the provision of both "lethal and nonlethal military equipment and training."

Ollongren said the holdup in the United States on new aid is "a bit frustrating," but given the threat Russia's aggression poses to Europe, the 27-nation EU will continue to push to increase aid levels.

"We are working on increasing production levels...For Ukraine, it's an existential threat. But for Europe, it's also an existential threat. So it is in our best interest," to continue aid to Kyiv, she said.

"It's also in the America's best interest to continue that support and to step it up and to do more," she added.


This content originally appeared on News - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and was authored by News - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.


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