Ukrainian Defense Minister expects help from Western warplanes
Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine’s defense minister said he was confident on Sunday that Western allies would agree to the country’s latest request for weapons – fighter jets to fight Russian forces that invaded nearly a year ago.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a news conference in Kyiv that Ukraine had already received everything on its “Santa’s wish list” except for planes.
“There will also be planes,” Reznikov predicted. “The question is what type exactly… Consider this mission already complete.”
So far, Ukraine has won the support of the Baltic countries and Poland in its quest to obtain Western fighter jets. But several Western leaders have expressed concern that the supply of warplanes could provoke the Kremlin and drag their countries deeper into the conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and caused widespread destruction.
Kyiv says such jets are essential to challenge Russia’s air superiority and ensure the success of a Russian offensive which Reznikov says could begin around the first anniversary of the war, Feb. 24.
“Not all Western weapons will arrive by then, but we have the resources and the reserves to help stabilize and sustain the offensive,” Reznikov told reporters.
Since the start of the war, Western leaders have balked at some of Ukraine’s requests, such as longer-range missiles and tanks, only to agree later. Warplanes are the latest example.
Ukraine moved its warplanes and concealed air defenses, hampering Moscow’s efforts to take full control of the skies. After suffering early losses, the Russian Air Force avoided venturing deep into Ukrainian airspace and focused primarily on front-line close support.
German-made tanks are on their way to Ukraine. Reznikov said his forces would begin training on Leopard tanks in Europe on Monday, ahead of their delivery to Ukraine. So far, Canada, Poland, Germany, Britain and the United States have announced that they will supply tanks to Ukraine.
The Kremlin has said that Western countries’ supply of ever more sophisticated and numerous weapons will only prolong the conflict, and it has called NATO a direct participant. Reznikov, commenting on Western arms supplies and the state of Ukraine’s military, took the rhetoric further on Sunday, telling reporters: “I boldly assert that we have become a de facto NATO country. We only have one de jure game left.
Ukraine has applied to join NATO, as have two of Russia’s other neighbours, Finland and Sweden.
On the battlefield, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said four people were injured on Sunday when a Russian S-300 missile fell near a building in the city of Kharkiv, and another was injured when a missile hit a university building. The video showed that the affected building was the National Academy of Urban Economics, about 700 meters from the city’s central square.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting has continued in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, one of four regions that Russia illegally annexed last year, even though its forces do not fully control the region. Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said five civilians were injured in overnight rocket attacks in the town of Druzhkivka and that the town of Avdiivka and its outskirts were also targeted by fire.
In the Black Sea port of Odessa, workers worked to connect temporary generators dispatched to restore power. The city and surrounding areas were plunged into darkness over the weekend following a large-scale network outage.
Grid operator Ukrenergo said the outage involved equipment “repeatedly repaired” after Russia’s savage strikes on Ukraine’s energy grid, and residents should prepare for long outages.
As of Sunday afternoon, around 280,000 customers – 40% of customers – remained without power, Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal said.
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