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Zelensky: First F-16 fighter jet in Ukraine 'will be one of the strongest signals from the world'

by The Kyiv Independent news desk May 24, 2023 11:59 PM 2 min read
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In his nightly address on May 24, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the first F-16 fighter jet delivered to Ukraine "will be one of the strongest signals from the world" that Russia is "only becoming weaker and more isolated."

Ukraine has been campaigning for months for its Western allies to provide more advanced fighter jets to gain air supremacy over Russia.

So far, Ukraine has received 14 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and 13 from Slovakia.

However, Kyiv has shown the most interest in the U.S.-built F-16, which has been in service since the 1970s and is operated by over 20 countries.

The U.K. and the Netherlands agreed on May 17 to build a "fighter jet coalition" for Ukraine. On May 20, the U.S. also declared that it would join the initiative, as did Portugal and Denmark.

While not all countries are prepared to provide Ukraine with advanced Western fighter jets, an increasing number are willing to provide training on how to pilot them. French President Emmanuel Macron said on May 15 that France has "opened the door" for training Ukrainian pilots.

Norway's Defense Ministry also announced on May 24 that it would "consider various ways to contribute to the training and education of Ukrainian personnel on F-16 fighter jets."

In his nightly address, Zelensky went on to thank Ukraine's Air Force and "all our defenders of the sky" for their improved air defense tactics since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Out of the approximately 1160 Shahed drones launched by Russia against Ukraine so far, air defense has managed to shoot down around 900 of them, according to Zelensky.

However, "it is only with powerful aircraft that an air defense system can be complete," Zelensky added.

Editorial: Arming Ukraine won’t escalate war. Reluctance to do so will
First it was the tanks, now it’s the fighter jets. As Ukraine braces for another possible major Russian offensive in the upcoming weeks, Western leaders are yet again coming up with a variety of excuses why this time, they cannot justify supplying F-16 and F-35 fighter jets to Ukraine.
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