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Ukraine seeks fighter jets after tanks

Ukrainian officials say Russian attacks have left 11 people dead amid local appeals for the country’s armed forces to be provided with foreign fighter jets.

January 27, 2023
27 January 2023

Ukraine will push for foreign fighter jets such as the US F-16 after securing supplies of main battle tanks, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister says, amid reports of new Russian missile and drone attacks.

Ukraine won a huge boost for its troops on Wednesday as Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock on the issue.

“The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” Yuriy Sak, who advises Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters by phone.

Ukraine’s Air Force has a fleet of ageing Soviet-era fighter jets that came off the assembly line before the country declared independence more than 31 years ago. 

The warplanes are used for intercept missions and to attack Russian positions.

“If we get them (foreign fighter jets), the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense… It’s not just F-16s (US multirole fighter jets): fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want.”

Foreign military support has been vital for Ukraine and has rapidly evolved during the war. 

Before the invasion, even the idea of supplying lethal aid to Ukraine was highly controversial but supplies from its allies have since shattered taboo after taboo.

“They didn’t want to give us heavy artillery, then they did. They didn’t want to give us Himars systems, then they did. They didn’t want to give us tanks, now they’re giving us tanks. Apart from nuclear weapons, there is nothing left that we will not get,” Sak said.

Russia reacted furiously on Wednesday after Germany approved the delivery to Ukraine of Leopard 2 tanks, the workhorse of armies across Europe, in a decision that is certain to gird Ukraine’s offensive power.

Deputy White House national security adviser Jon Finer told MSNBC on Thursday that the United States would be discussing the idea of supplying fighter jets “very carefully” with Ukraine and its allies.

“We have not ruled in or out any specific systems. We have tried to tailor our assistance to the phase of the fight the Ukrainians are in,” Finer said.

Ukrainian civilians were left racing for cover on Thursday as a barrage of Russian missiles and drones killed at least 11 people according to local officials.

Ukraine said it had shot down all 24 drones sent overnight by Russia, including 15 around the capital, and 47 of 55 Russian missiles – some fired from Tu-95 strategic bombers in the Russian Arctic.

Air raid alarms had sounded across Ukraine as people headed to work. 

In the capital, crowds took cover for a time in underground metro stations.

Eleven people were killed and 11 wounded in the drone and missile strikes, which spanned 11 regions and also damaged 35 buildings, a State Emergency Service spokesperson said.

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