Western allies differ over jets for Ukraine as Russia claims gains

  • Biden says ‘no’ when asked about F-16s in Ukraine
  • Zelenskiy says Moscow wants ‘big revenge’
  • The Russian guard is said to be in Vuhledar
  • Kyiv may go back to the ground when Western weapons arrive – team

KYIV, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defense minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron amid a row between Kyiv’s allies over the supply of fighter jets for its war against Russia, after US President Joe Biden ordered the delivery of F- 16s.

Ukraine planned to deploy fourth-generation Western fighters like F-16s after acquiring the main battle tanks last week, Defense Ministry adviser Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.

Asked at the White House on Monday if the United States would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters: “No.”

But France and Poland seem ready to listen to any request from Ukraine, Macron told reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military aid.

In a speech on French television before Biden’s speech in Washington, Macron stressed that the move would depend on a number of factors including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the plane “does not touch Russian soil.” He added that Reznikov will meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu again in Paris on Tuesday.

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In Poland on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki did not say that F-16s could be found in Ukraine, in response to a question from a reporter before Biden spoke.

Morawiecki said in a statement on his website that any such transfer would be carried out in “full cooperation” with NATO countries.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, saw “positive signs” from Poland and said France “does not rule out” such a move in various areas of its Telegraph channel.

Biden’s comments came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had begun retaliating against Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion and continued offensive in the east, which appears to be successful.

Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow is looking to step up its threat after nearly two months of a lull on the frontline that runs south and east.

Ukraine scored a major victory last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to supply heavy tanks, ending weeks of stalemate on the issue.

While there was no sign of a new Russian attack, the commander of the Russian-controlled area of ​​eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, said Russian troops had gained ground in Vuhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins remain in Ukraine. since the beginning of the war.

Pushilin said that despite “heavy losses” the Ukrainian military was consolidating positions in the industry.

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Mr. Pushilin said that the Ukrainian military is dropping aid to Bakhmut, Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns from north to southwest of Donetsk city. Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces are making progress there, but “not clearly, that is, there is a real battle for every meter.”

Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine was still in control of Maryinka and Vuhledar, while the Russian attack was less severe on Monday.

Pushilin’s advisor, Yan Gagin, said Wagner’s Russian fighters had partially controlled the road to Bakhmut, a city that had been under Moscow’s focus for months.

A day earlier, Wagner’s leader said his fighters had defended Blahodatne, a village north of Bakhmut, although Kyiv said it had ended violence in Blahodatne.

Reuters could not independently verify the military reports. But the said location clearly showed, albeit slowly, Russia’s success.

In the central region of Zaporizhzhia and southern Kherson, Russian troops shelled more than 40 villages, the Ukrainian General Staff said. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.

The Russians also launched four rocket launchers at Ochakiv south of Mykolaiv, the military said, on the day Zelenskiy met with the Danish prime minister in the northeastern city of Mykolaiv.

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Zelenskiy is urging the West to speed up the delivery of the weapons they promised to Ukraine, but hundreds of tanks promised by the West are months away from being delivered.

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger tanks supplied by Britain would be on the front line around April or May, without giving an exact date.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Western countries that provide military equipment lead “to NATO countries more and more entering the conflict – but they do not have the ability to change the situation and will not.”

The US-based Institute for the Study of War said the “failure of the West to provide the necessary resources” last year was the main reason why Kyiv stopped making progress since November.

The researchers said in a report that Ukraine could seize land again when the promised weapons arrive.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow claims is necessary to protect its neighbor’s relations with the West, has killed thousands and driven millions from their homes.

Reports by Reuters; By Doina Chiacu and Stephen Coates; Edited by Cynthia Osterman & Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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