- Biden says ‘no’ when asked about F-16s for Ukraine
- Zelensky says Moscow is seeking “big revenge.”
- Russian administrator claims foothold in Vuhledar
- Kiev could recapture ground if western weapons arrive – group
KYIV, Jan. 31 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defense minister will meet President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether or not to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after the US president Joe Biden had ruled out using F-16s.
Ukraine planned to push for fourth-generation Western fighter jets such as F-16s after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Friday.
Asked at the White House on Monday whether the United States would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters, “No.”
But France and Poland appear willing to grant such a request from Ukraine, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition nothing is excluded” when it comes to military aid.
In remarks on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed that such a move depends on several factors, including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the plane “will not touch Russian soil.” He said Reznikov would also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday.
In Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also did not rule out a possible delivery of F-16s to neighboring Ukraine on Monday, responding to a reporter’s question before Biden spoke.
Morawiecki said in remarks on his website that such a transfer would take place “in full coordination” with NATO countries.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office, noted “positive signals” from Poland and said France “does not rule out” such a move in separate posts on its Telegram channel.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was in Japan on Tuesday where he thanked Tokyo for the “aircraft and cargo capabilities” it is providing Ukraine. A day earlier, in South Korea, he urged Seoul to increase its military support for Ukraine.
Biden’s comment came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had begun exacting revenge for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with brutal attacks in the east, where it appeared to be making increasing gains.
Zelenskiy has been warning for weeks that Moscow wants to step up its attack after about two months of virtual stalemate along the frontline stretching south and east.
Ukraine received a huge boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to supply heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock over the issue.
While there was no sign of a wider new Russian offensive, Denis Pushilin, the administrator of Russian-controlled parts of eastern Donetsk province, said Russian troops had gained a foothold in Vuhledar, a coal mining town whose ruins were a Ukrainian bastion. have been. since the start of the war.
Pushilin said Ukrainian troops were consolidating their positions in industrial facilities despite “massive losses”.
‘FIGHT FOR EVERY METER’
Pushilin said Ukrainian troops were throwing reinforcements at Bakhmut, Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns running north-south just west of Donetsk city. Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian troops are advancing there, but “not clearly, that is, here there is a battle for literally every meter”.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine is still in control of Maryinka and Vuhledar, where Russian attacks were less intense on Monday.
Pushilin’s adviser Yan Gagin said fighters from Russia’s mercenary army Wagner had partially taken control of a supply road to Bakhmut, a city that has been the center of Moscow for months.
A day earlier, Wagner’s chief said his fighters had captured Blahodatne, a village just north of Bakhmut, though Kiev said it had repelled attacks on Blahodatne.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports. But the locations of the reported fighting indicated clear, if gradual, Russian gains.
In the central region of Zaporizhzhia and in the southern region of Kherson, Russian troops shelled more than 40 settlements, Ukraine’s general staff said. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.
The Russians also launched four rocket attacks on Ochakiv in southern Mykolaiv, the army said, on the day Zelenskiy met the Danish prime minister in the northeast town of Mykolaiv.
Zelenskiy is urging the West to speed up the delivery of its promised weapons so Ukraine can go on the offensive, but most of the hundreds of tanks promised by Western countries are months away from delivery.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger tanks donated by Britain would be on the front line around April or May, without giving an exact time frame.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western arms-supplying countries are leading “NATO countries to become increasingly directly involved in the conflict — but it doesn’t have the potential to change the course of events and won’t.”
The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said that “the failure of the West to provide the necessary equipment” was the main reason last year that Kiev’s advance had stalled since November.
The investigators said in a report that Ukraine could still retake territory once the promised weapons arrived.
The Belarus Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Russia and Belarus had begun a week-long training session for personnel in preparation for joint exercises in Russia in September.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect itself from its neighbor’s ties to the West, has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions from their homes.
Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Doina Chiacu and Stephen Coates; Edited by Cynthia Osterman & Simon Cameron-Moore
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