- Biden says ‘no’ when asked about F-16 for Ukraine
- Zelensky says Moscow wants ‘big revenge’
- The Russian administrator claims that Vuhledar is stable
- Kyiv could regain land when Western weapons arrive – group
Ukraine’s defense minister will meet President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday, amid a debate among Kiev’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for the war against Russia after US President Joe Biden ruled out giving F. 16s.
Ukraine planned to catch up with the West’s fourth-generation fighter jets, such as the F-16, after securing a delivery of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.
Asked at the White House on Monday whether the US would deliver the F-16, Biden told reporters: “No.”
But France and Poland appear ready to meet any such Ukrainian request, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is off” when it comes to military aid.
In remarks broadcast on French television ahead of Biden’s appearance in Washington, Macron stressed that any such move would depend on a number of factors, including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the plane “will not touch Russian soil.” He said Reznikov would also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecorne in Paris on Tuesday.
On Monday in Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Moraveckis also did not rule out the possible supply of F-16 to neighboring Ukraine, answering a journalist’s question before Biden’s speech.
Moraveckis said in remarks published on his website that any such handover would take place “in full coordination” with NATO countries.
The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, noted “positive signals” from Poland and said France “does not rule out” such a move in separate posts on his Telegram channel.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was in Japan on Tuesday, where he thanked Tokyo for the “aircraft and cargo capabilities” it provides to Ukraine. A day earlier in South Korea, he urged Seoul to increase its military support for Ukraine.
Biden’s comments came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had begun retaliating against Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east, where it appears to be making increasing gains.
Zelensky has warned for weeks that Moscow is aiming to step up the offensive after about two months of virtual stalemate on the frontline that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine received a huge boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to supply heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock over the issue.
While there were no signs of a wider new Russian offensive, Denis Pushylin, administrator of the Russian-held parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, said Russian troops had brought stability to Vukhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins had been a Ukrainian bastion. since the beginning of the war.
Pushylin said that despite “huge losses”, Ukrainian forces are consolidating positions at industrial facilities.
“FIGHT FOR EVERY METER”
Pushylin said Ukrainian forces were pouring reinforcements into Bakhmut, Marinka and Vuhledar, towns running north-south just west of Donetsk city. Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces are advancing there, but “it’s not clear, that is, there is fighting literally every meter”.
Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, said Ukraine still controls Maryinka and Vuhledar, where Russian attacks were less intense on Monday.
Yan Gagin, an adviser to Pushilin, said the Russian mercenary Wagner militia had taken partial control of a supply route leading to Bakhmut, a town that has been the focus of Moscow’s attention for months.
A day earlier, Wagner’s chief said his fighters had secured Blahodatni, a village just north of Bakhmut, although Kyiv said it had repelled attacks on Blahodatni.
Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield. But the locations of the reported battles indicated a clear, if gradual, Russian advance.
In the central part of Zaporozhye region and southern Kherson region, Russian forces shelled more than 40 settlements, the Ukrainian General Staff said. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.
The Russians also launched four rocket attacks on Ochakov in southern Mykolaiv, the army said, on the day Zelensky met the Danish prime minister in the northeastern city of Mykolaiv.
Zelensky is urging the West to speed up promised arms deliveries so Ukraine can go on the offensive, but most of the hundreds of tanks pledged by the West are months away.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger tanks donated by Britain would be on the front line around April or May, but did not give an exact timetable.
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Western arms supplies were leading “to NATO countries getting more and more involved in the conflict, but this has no potential to change the course of events and it will not.”
The US-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said “the failure of the West to provide the necessary materiel” last year was the main reason why Kiev’s advance has stalled since November.
The researchers said in the report that Ukraine could still regain territory once the promised weapons arrive.
Belarus’ Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that Russia and Belarus have begun a week-long staff training session in preparation for joint exercises in Russia in September.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect itself from its neighbors’ ties to the West, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
Reuters bureau reports; Written by Doina Chiaku and Stephen Coates; Editing: Cynthia Osterman and Simon Cameron-Moore
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