Russia has slammed the West’s plan to supply the US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Moscow on Saturday warned the countries that are reportedly planning to supply F-16s to Ukraine, which is at war with Russia, of the “colossal risks.”
“We see that Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario. It involves colossal risks for themselves,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Russia’s semi-official TASS news agency, in response to a question on the possible supply of American-made jets to Ukraine.
“In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the goals we have set,” he added.
US President Joe Biden had announced that the United States would not supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.
However, Biden on Friday told leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries gathered in Japan that Washington was prepared to help train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets donated to the former Soviet state.
The United States gave the green light to its allies to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, saying it is set to hold joint training courses for the Ukrainian pilots to fly the aircraft.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has been requesting F-16s from the West but has not yet won commitments to deliver the jets from any country as no government has so far confirmed it will supply Kiev with warplanes despite the push by the US, the UK and the EU officials to send weapons to Kiev.
In this regard, till now the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada have only all announced programs to give Ukrainian pilots training on F-16s.
However, the US shift is a diplomatic victory for Zelensky, who is currently in Hiroshima to push for more military support as he attends the G7 summit.
The US shift clears the way for the other Western nations to send their existing stocks of F-16s to Ukraine because countries cannot resell or re-export American weapons and munitions without US consent.
Although it seems increasingly likely that Ukraine will eventually receive the advanced jets as it did the tanks and air defense systems that were initially not given to Kiev.
The Western alliance has so far “focused on providing Ukraine with the systems weapon and training it needs to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer”, US National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Hiroshima, Japan.
He said the recent announcement by the US president was part of Washington’s “long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense”.
“As the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them, and how many,” he said.
In related news, Russia announced that its air defenses intercepted 12 HIMARS rockets and Storm Shadow cruise missiles in the past day, as well as a US-made GBU-32 bomb supplied to Kiev by its Western backers.
“Air defenses intercepted 12 HIMARS rockets and Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles in the past 24 hours, as well as a US-made GBU-32 guided munition,” Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday, TASS reported.
onashenkov said 18 Ukrainian drones were destroyed near Verkhnetoretskoye, Novoandreyevka and Sladkoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic, and Kremennaya, Ploshchanka and Novodruzhesk in the Lugansk People’s Republic.
Russian officials have repeatedly warned against flooding Ukraine with weapons, insisting the massive shipments of armaments to Kiev will only prolong the bloody conflict.
The West has supplied Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars worth of various weaponry since the onset of the Russian military campaign in February 2022 as a security measure against persisting eastern advance of the US-led NATO military alliance and the protection of Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine from abusive treatment by Kiev forces.
Western weapons supplied to Kiev include advanced missile systems, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems.