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Defense minister: Ukraine may receive first F-16s 'very soon' but half of military aid arriving late

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 28, 2024 9:35 PM 2 min read
Rustem Umerov stands in the Ukrainian parliament during voting on his nomination as the Ukrainian defense minister in Kyiv on Sept. 6, 2023. (Andrii Nesterenko/AFP via Getty Images)
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The first batch of F-16 fighter jets will be delivered to Ukraine “hopefully very, very soon,” but around half of the military aid from Western partners is arriving late, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said in an interview with Reuters published on May 28.

Several NATO countries – Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway – have pledged to deliver dozens of U.S.-made F-16 fighters from their stocks. Danish F-16s are expected to arrive as early as this summer, whereas Dutch fighter jets should begin arriving in the autumn.

“We need as much as we may get," Umerov said when asked about the number of aircraft Ukraine expects to receive, adding that the country is focused mainly on training pilots and personnel now.

Ukraine also continues to increase its own production of weapons and drones, as well as its electronic warfare capabilities, according to the minister.

Russia has 500,000 troops in Ukraine and near its borders and is preparing to involve another 200,000-300,000, aiming to "open a new front in the north to start using all their manpower, firing power," Umerov said.

"We are withstanding, but of course we need more weapons, we need more firing power, we need long-range missiles, not to allow them to enter our state," he added.

In recent months, Russia has maintained the initiative on the battlefield, taking advantage of delays in defense aid to Ukraine from Western allies and Kyiv's troop shortages.

Moscow launched a new offensive on May 10 in northern Kharkiv Oblast. Moscow's forces had reportedly managed to advance as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) into the region but had been halted by the first line of defense.

Belgium to provide Ukraine with 30 F-16 aircraft by 2028, first to arrive in 2024
The announcement accompanies news that President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Belgium on May 28 to sign a bilateral security agreement.
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