After five Russian aircraft were allegedly downed by Ukraine in the week leading up to Christmas, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Dec. 25 that every Russian pilot must "make a clear choice" whether to continue fighting in the war because Ukraine's air defense would "only get stronger."
Ukraine’s anti-aircraft missile system downed a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft near the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast, Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk reported on Dec. 24.
The Air Force also confirmed the downing of a Russian Su-30 fighter jet over the Black Sea on Dec. 24.
"Every Russian pilot must make a clear choice whether to continue participating in this war," Zelensky said in his nightly address.
"Our air defense will only get stronger, especially when we receive additional systems that have already been agreed upon and the F-16s."
Following a call with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Zelensky announced on Dec. 22 that the Netherlands will deliver 18 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine. The Netherlands and Denmark led the way in the summer of 2023 in forming an international coalition that would train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets.
F-16s will allow Ukraine's military to gain air superiority and better protect Ukrainian forces on the ground.