US President Joe Biden has confirmed Ukrainian pilots will be trained in the use of F-16 fighter jets, after a meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Japan.
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Both leaders met while attending the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan on 20 May.
“The United States, together with our allies and partners, is going to begin training Ukrainian pilots in fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s, to strengthen Ukraine’s air force as part of a long-term commitment to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself,” President Biden said.
“We’re moving in the direction of putting them in a position to be able to be … defend themselves in ways beyond what they’ve had to deal with so far.
“(Earlier in the conflict) F-16s would not have helped in that regard at all. It was unnecessary (to send them).
“If they continue to do well, they’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to have the Russians being able to stand off at a greater distance … which are out of range of the existing capacity they have.
“And they have to be able to be in a position where now those fighter jets, those F-16s, make a big difference in terms of being able to deal with what is coming down the road.
“I have a flat assurance from Zelenskyy that they will not use it to go on and move into Russian geographic territory. But wherever Russian troops are within Ukraine in the area, they would be able to do that.”
President Zelenskyy said he has confidence that Ukraine would receive modern Western fighter jets, as well as critical equipment to remove fields of land mines laid in the country.
“This is the first step. Next, we have a certain number of months to train our pilots. We will work to ensure that these are the most experienced people at once to shorten the training process. To strengthen our air defence,” he said.
“Russia is not just an enemy, they behave like terrorists, they have mined our fields — we are talking about thousands of square kilometres. And here the help of one state will not be enough.”
Both leaders also discussed the possibility of a Ukrainian counterattack against Russian forces.
“We and our NATO allies know how many brigades they have trained, know what the status of those brigades are, and have an expectation as to what their likelihood of succeeding are,” President Biden said.
“We don’t know that for certain … war is uncertain, to state the obvious. The expectation and hope is that they will be successful in that it’ll make it clear to Russia that the cost (is hard to tolerate).
“For example, Bakhmut … the truth of the matter is the Russians have suffered over 100,000 casualties in Bakhmut. That’s hard to make up.
“Russia started this war, and Russia could end it today by withdrawing its troops from Ukraine internationally recognised borders and ceasing its assault.
“Until then, Ukraine’s ability to defend itself is essential to being able to end this war permanently and through diplomacy.”