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Kuleba urges allies to start training Ukrainian pilots before decision on aircraft delivery is made
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on the countries that could provide Ukraine with aircraft to start training Ukrainian pilots before a political decision on aircraft delivery is made.
Kuleba believes that eventually allies will provide Ukraine with fighter jets, even if it takes more time than the agreement on battle tank supplies.
"We propose to start with training. This is our request to all our friends who can potentially share aircraft with us," he said at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18.
At the conference, Kuleba had 15 negotiations with allies during 24 hours, including with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iraq, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, US senators, and others.
"We have agreed on faster delivery of weapons and ammunition, full deployment of the allied defense industry, new sanctions against the Russian Federation, promotion of (Ukraine's) peace formula, and mobilizing support for important UN votes," Ukraine's Foreign Ministry reported on Facebook.
The Munich Security Conference, held on Feb. 17-19, brought together multiple Western leaders, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius pledged continued support for Ukraine at the conference.
Macron similarly called on Europe as a whole to "invest more in defense."
Ukraine has been pleading for fighter jets for months, as Western, Ukrainian, and Russian sources indicate that Russia is preparing for an imminent offensive.
So far, the West has been reluctant to transfer aircraft to Ukraine after greenlighting modern tanks for Ukraine amid fears of escalating tensions with Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the decision to provide Ukraine with Western fighter jets "is not the most urgent issue now," while the US and the UK ruled out sending aircraft to Ukraine any time soon.
However, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Feb. 9 that "several" European leaders expressed readiness to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and other necessary weapons without further details.
Meanwhile, Poland has publicly shown readiness to send fighter jets to Ukraine – but it said the delivery needs NATO approval.
Sweden also said on Feb. 15 that it is considering transferring Gripen fighter aircraft after receiving a request from Kyiv.
Critics argue that allies’ reluctance to supply F-16, Typhoon and Dassault fighter jets and long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine will prevent Kyiv from launching a counteroffensive and liberating the rest of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s lack of advanced aircraft and missiles will likely prolong Russia’s war of aggression and result in thousands of deaths.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has promised to provide Ukraine with GLSDB missiles but they are expected to arrive in nine months, which may be too late.