Ukraine victory as Netherlands and Denmark agree to supply Zelensky with F-16s

Biden sending F16 jets to Ukraine ‘could change course of the war’

The Netherlands and Denmark have confirmed they will supply Ukraine with F-16 warplanes in a massive boost for the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been pushing for such a move with troops embroiled in a gruelling counteroffensive against Russia.

The timeline depends on how rapidly Ukrainian crews and infrastructure can be ready for the powerful US-made jets, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Zelensky as the two visited a Dutch air base.

Ukraine has long pleaded for the sophisticated fighter to give it a combat edge, having recently launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s forces without air cover, placing its troops at the mercy of both Russian aviation and artillery.

Mr Zelensky welcomed the ‘’historic” deal and praised Rutte for making the Netherlands the first country to offer the planes.

The announcement came minutes after the two leaders inspected two grey F-16 jets parked in a hangar at the Dutch base in the southern city of Eindhoven.

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Danish Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said: “It makes me proud that Denmark, together with the Netherlands, will donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine’s fight for freedom against Russia and its senseless aggression. Denmark’s support for Ukraine is unwavering, and with the donation of F-16 aircraft, Denmark is now leading the way.”

Speaking on his Telegram channel, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine would get 42 jets, but the Netherlands and Denmark, in a joint statement announcing the deliveries, did not specify numbers.

Mr Rutte said said the Netherlands has 42 of the jets, but said some would be needed for training purposes.

When they will take to the skies over Mr Zelensky’s nation also remained unclear, but Rutte said he hopes it will be soon.

He admitted: “The F-16s will not help immediately now with the war effort. It is anyway a long-term commitment from the Netherlands.

“We want them to be active and operational as soon as possible. Not for the next month, that’s impossible, but hopefully soon afterward.”

Mr Zelensky called the announcement a powerful message to his forces.

He said: ‘’F16 will certainly give new energy, confidence, and motivation to fighters and civilians. I’m sure it will deliver new results for Ukraine and the entire Europe.”

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The Dutch and Danish governments are also involved in a coalition that is working to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the advanced fighter jets.

Mr Zelensky refused to say how many Ukrainian pilots would undergo training in Denmark and later in Romania, citing security reasons. However, Denmark said Friday that the training is starting this month.

Officials have previously said that Ukrainian pilots will need six to eight months of training.

On Friday, the Netherlands and Denmark said the US had authorised them to deliver American-made F-16s to Ukraine.

Washington’s approval was seen as a major boost for Kyiv, even though the fighter jets will not have an impact any time soon on the almost 18-month war.

The US says the F-16s – like the advanced US Abrams tanks – will be crucial in the long term as Kyiv faces down Russia.

Ukraine has been relying on older aircraft, such as Russian-made MiG29 and Sukhoi jets. F-16s have newer technology and targeting capabilities. They are also more versatile, experts say.

In a video message earlier Sunday, Mr Zelensky vowed a stern retaliation for a Russian missile strike the previous day in the centre of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv that killed seven people and wounded over 100 others.

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