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Zelensky concerned over delayed F-16 pilot training

by The Kyiv Independent news desk July 1, 2023 7:15 PM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the world's environmental protection community on the issue of Russia's ecocide through the destruction of the Kakhovka dam on June 8, 2023. (Photo: Office of the President of Ukraine)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his frusration with Western allies who he said were delaying the start of the promised training of Ukrainian pilots to operae F-16 fighter jets.

"We agreed and emphasized that we have a coalition of countries ready to start training for Ukrainian pilots. There is no schedule of training missions, this is being delayed. I don't know why they are doing it," Zelensky said in a joint conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on July 1.

The European countries taking part in the so-called "fighter jet coalition" set to provide Ukraine with jet fighters and training include the U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, and France, he said. The U.S. has also joined the coalition.

Ukraine has been campaigning for many months for its Western allies to provide fighter jets to give Ukraine air supremacy over Russia.

On May 25, the Swedish government announced it will train Ukraine's pilots on its JAS 39 Gripen jets, but added it will not provide the planes to Kyiv.

On June 1, the "fighter jet coalition" met in Moldova on June 1. There, Zelensky met the leaders of the U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium to discuss the training of pilots and procurement of Western fighter jets.

So far, Ukraine has received 14 MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and 13 from Slovakia but has been pushing for more advanced aircraft.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry has previously said it requires at least 48 F-16 fighter jets to liberate its territory from Russian troops.

During a press conference in late May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the Netherlands was "seriously considering" giving F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Politico: Romania could host F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots
A coalition of Western countries is considering Romania as a possible site for F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots, three anonymous Western officials told Politico.
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