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Ukraine can use Belgian F-16s only on Ukrainian territory, Belgian PM says

by Martin Fornusek May 28, 2024 1:00 PM 2 min read
F-16 Tiger Demo Team performs on the first day of NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days in Czechia on Sept. 16, 2023. (Lukas Kabon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Belgian arms which are to be supplied to Ukraine under the recently signed security agreement, including F-16 fighter jets, are intended for use only on Ukrainian territory, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference on May 28.

"Everything which is covered by this agreement... is for the utilization by the Ukrainian defense forces on Ukrainian territory," De Croo said in response to a journalist's question about whether Ukraine will be able to use Belgian F-16 jets to down Russian planes in Russian airspace.

De Croo and President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the security agreement earlier on May 28, under which Belgium pledged to provide Ukraine with 30 F-16s by 2028, with the first of the aircraft expected to arrive by the end of this year.

Ukraine is yet to receive the first of the dozens of F-16s pledged by Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway.

De Croo's statement comes amid a growing discussion among Western allies about whether to allow Ukrainian forces to strike military targets on Russian soil. Ukrainian officials have complained that the restrictions prevented Kyiv from attacking Russian forces amassing near Kharkiv Oblast earlier in May with advanced weaponry.

Several countries, including Lithuania, Czechia, Finland, the U.K., and Sweden, as well as NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, called on the allies to lift the ban on strikes on Russian territory with Western arms.

U.S. officials, as well as German and Italian ones, have repeatedly said that they do not support or encourage Kyiv's strikes with the Western-supplied arms inside Russia.

The New York Times reported on May 23 that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken favors ending the ban, but it remains unclear whether his proposal will gain support in the White House.

Ukraine, Belgium sign long-term security deal
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo signed a long-term bilateral security agreement in Brussels on May 28, the Presidential Office announced.
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