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Dutch PM vows to look into ways to strengthen Ukraine's air defense in a phone call with Zelensky

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 8, 2023 4:27 PM 2 min read
Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jets during NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission in Lithuanian airspace near Siauliai on May 23, 2023. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
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In a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Aug. 8, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands is "looking into what else we can do to strengthen Ukrainian air defenses" to protect civilians from Russian attacks.

Rutte said that one way his country was already providing assistance was by working with partners to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.

During a previous phone call with Rutte on July 8, Zelensky said that he had confirmed the dates when Ukrainian pilots would begin their training, though the date itself was not disclosed.

On Aug. 5, Politico reported that the first group of eight Ukrainian pilots fluent in English that will participate in F-16 training has been identified. Twenty more pilots with minimal English skills are available to start language instruction in the U.K. within the month, according to the report.

Rutte said on Aug. 8 that he condemned the "unrelenting, random and brutal" Russian attacks which target Ukrainian civilians and food stocks, and underscored his country's continued support for Ukraine.

Zelensky, meanwhile, wrote that he spoke with Rutte about the situation on the battlefield and outlined the current defense needs, including artillery, armored vehicles, and air defense systems to protect the infrastructure of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Rutte also congratulated Zelensky on"the successful meeting in Saudi Arabia," which representatives from the Netherlands attended. Rutte added that it is "important to continue talking about peace in Ukraine with this broad group of countries."

Zelensky said that the two leaders "exchanged positive assessments" of the meeting in Saudi Arabia and discussed the next steps in preparing for the Global Peace Summit.

The talks in Jeddah, which were hosted by Saudi Arabia upon the invitation of Zelensky, gathered diplomats and national security advisors from over 40 countries around the world.

The countries, which did not include Russia, met to voice their position and vision on the implementation of Ukraine's peace formula, a 10-point peace plan Zelensky announced in November 2022 at the G20 summit.

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