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Zelensky thanks Denmark over F-16 fighter jets pledge during visit

by The Kyiv Independent news desk August 21, 2023 5:23 PM 3 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky waves as he speaks to the crowd in front of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on August 21, 2023. (Mads Claus /Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Danish lawmakers on Aug. 21 in Copenhagen, thanking them for their F-16 jet pledge to Ukraine and "leadership that multiplies our collective strength."

"We are here to say: Thank you. To personally thank all of you for helping us in our fight, difficult fight for freedom," Zelensky said.

He also warned Russia's neighbors would be "under threat" in case of a Ukrainian defeat.

"All of Russia’s neighbors are under threat if Ukraine does not prevail. International law will not be resuscitated, democracies of the world, each of them can become a target – either for missiles, or for mercenaries, or for destabilization, and I am sure you can feel it. But Ukraine will prevail," he said.

Zelensky and his wife also had an audience with Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and members of the Royal Family.

"Meeting with Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and members of the Royal Family. Statements and actions of the Royal Family of Denmark in support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people mean a lot to us," Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska arrived in Denmark on Aug. 20 on a working visit as part of a diplomatic trip to that also includes Sweden and the Netherlands to discuss military aid, particularly fighter jets for Ukraine.

Denmark plans to supply Ukraine with the first batch of six F-16 fighter jets out of 19 before the end of the year, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced during a joint press conference with Zelensky on Aug. 20 at the Skrydstrup airbase.

Next year, Ukraine will receive eight F-16 fighters, and five more in 2025, Frederiksen confirmed.

“We know that your freedom is our freedom. We also know that you need more weapons,” Frederiksen said, the Guardian reported.

Zelensky arrived at the Skrydstrup air base on Aug. 20 in the town of Vojens, two days after the U.S. government approved the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands once Ukrainian pilots had completed training.

According to Frederiksen, 70 Ukrainian pilots are currently preparing to start their training program in Denmark.

“Denmark fully supports Ukraine,” Frederiksen said. “We know that your freedom is our freedom.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also confirmed on Aug. 20 the delivery of the fighter aircraft to Ukraine by both the Netherlands and Denmark during a stop by Zelensky at a Dutch air force base in Eindhoven.

While Rutte did not specify the number of aircraft Ukraine would receive, Zelensky said on Aug. 20 in Telegram posts that Ukraine would receive 42 F-16s in a “breakthrough agreement.”

The Netherlands Air Force has a total of 42 F-16s, but is transitioning to modern F-35 fighters.

Zelensky’s visit to the Netherlands followed his trip to Sweden, where he said Ukrainian pilots had begun test flights on Swedish Gripen fighter jets.

During the visit, Zelensky and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson discussed the potential delivery of Gripens to Ukraine.

"We also talked about another strong Swedish machine, the Gripen aircraft. This is the pride of Sweden. And I am sure that Gripens can make our freedom much more secure," Zelensky said on Aug. 19.

While Sweden has previously agreed to train Ukrainian pilots on Gripen jets, it has stopped short of pledging the aircraft itself.

Ukraine has been lobbying to receive U.S.-made F-16s since the first days of Russia's full-scale invasion.  Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said F-16 fighter jets could help counter Russia's air superiority, which is necessary to achieve success on the battlefield.

Ukrainian pilots, engineers, and technicians have already started a six-month training session on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on national television on Aug. 19.

Ukraine's Air Force comprises Soviet-made aircraft and is outnumbered by Russia's larger Air Force, thwarting Ukraine's ability to conduct counteroffensives.

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