Ukraine’s defense minister is confident the West will send jets

By Andrew Gray and Johnny Cotton

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Wednesday he was “absolutely” confident Western countries will supply Kiev with fighter jets to help counter the Russian invasion, though some have so far been cold to the idea.

In an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Reznikov noted that Ukraine’s allies had already supplied a number of Western weapons systems after initially saying they would not. “The impossible became possible,” he said.

He said warplanes would be needed as part of a broader air defense system to protect Ukraine from Russian attacks.

“We urgently need aircraft as a platform to defend our skies. We must dominate in our Ukrainian sky. It will protect our civilian population first and certainly our armed forces.”

In recent weeks, US President Joe Biden Washington has declared that Washington will not deliver any F-16 jets to Ukraine, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also ruled out sending fighter jets.

Other countries, such as Poland, have signaled that they are open to the idea but would only act with broad Western support. The UK has announced it will train Ukrainian fighter pilots but not yet whether it will supply jets.

Some Western officials have also noted that it would likely take many months to deploy fighter jets and train Ukrainian pilots on them. Others have also raised concerns that delivering Western jets could be a dangerous escalation of the war.

The day after meeting in Brussels with NATO defense ministers and a coalition of more than 50 countries supporting Kyiv, Reznikov said warplanes were “on the table” and that allies were evaluating which model would be best for Ukraine.

“We have to choose the best solution,” he said, citing US F-16 jets and Swedish Gripen aircraft as leading options.

Reznikov said his personal view is that F-16s are best as they are used by a variety of countries. “My dream: It should be F-16. But Gripen is also very good,” he said.

After securing a range of Western weapons including air defense systems, missiles, artillery and tanks, Reznikov said he joked with Western ministers that fighter jets were the last item on his Santa wish list.

When asked if he was confident he would end up getting Jets, Reznikov replied, “Absolutely, I’m confident.”

Reznikov said air defense remains Ukraine’s top priority in terms of military aid, although Kiev has already received several advanced systems. He said that if Russia launched a major offensive, it would bring its own air force more into play.

“If they launch a real offensive campaign, they will certainly use aircraft from their side to try to stop our defensive forces. That means it’s a real threat, so they need more sophisticated, more modern aircraft – to stop them, to defeat them, to deter them.”

(Reporting by Andrew Gray and Johnny Cotton; Writing by Andrew Gray; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


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