Western allies differ over jets to Ukraine, Russia claims gains

  • Biden Says ‘No’ When Asked About F-16s For Ukraine
  • Zelensky says Moscow seeks ‘great revenge’
  • The Russian executive got a foothold in Wuhleder
  • Kiev can recapture ground when Western weapons arrive – team

KYIV, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defense minister is expected to meet President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday after U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out providing F-I, amid talks among Kyiv’s allies over the supply of fighter jets for the war against Russia. 16s.

Ukraine plans to push for Western fourth-generation fighter jets such as F-16s after securing supplies of key battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.

Asked at the White House on Monday whether the U.S. would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters: “No.”

But France and Poland appear ready to accept 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 broadcast on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed that any such move would depend on a number of factors, including the need to avoid escalation and a guarantee that the plane “does not touch Russian soil.” Reznikov will also meet his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday, he said.

In Poland on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki did not rule out providing F-16s to neighboring Ukraine, answering a reporter’s question before Biden spoke.

In comments posted on his website, Morawiecki said such an exchange would take place “in full coordination” with NATO countries.

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Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s 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 provides to Ukraine. A day earlier in South Korea, he urged Seoul to increase its military support for Ukraine.

Biden’s comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had begun retaliating against Ukraine’s opposition with relentless attacks in the east.

Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its offensive after nearly two months of virtual stalemate on a front line that stretches across the south and east.

Ukraine won a major 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 Bushilin, the administrator of the Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, said Russian troops had gained a foothold in the coal-mining town of Vuhlader, whose ruins have been a Ukrainian stronghold since the start of the war.

Despite “huge losses,” Bushilin said Ukrainian forces were consolidating positions at industrial facilities.

‘War for Every Meter’

Bushilin said Ukrainian forces were pouring reinforcements into the towns of Pakhmut, Marinka and Vuhlader, which run north-southwest of Donetsk city. Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces were advancing there, but “not clearly, which means there is a battle for every meter here.”

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Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, said Ukraine still controls Maryinka and Vuhledar, where Russian attacks were minimal on Monday.

Yan Gagin, an adviser to Bushilin, said Wagner’s fighters, a Russian mercenary force, had taken control of part of a supply road leading to Bagmut, a city Moscow had been focusing on for months.

A day earlier, Wagner’s leader said his fighters had secured Blahotatne, a village north of Pakmut, although Kiev said it had repulsed attacks on Blahotatne.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports. But the locations of the reported fighting show clear, albeit gradual, Russian gains.

Ukraine’s civil service said Russian forces shelled more than 40 settlements in the central Zaporizhia region and southern Kherson region. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.

On the day Zelensky met with the Danish prime minister in the northeastern city of Mykolaiv, the Russians launched four rocket attacks on Osagiv in southern Mykolaiv, the military said.

Western delays

Zelenskiy is urging the West to quickly deliver promised weapons so Ukraine can launch an offensive, but most of the hundreds of tanks promised by the West are months away from delivery.

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the 14 British-supplied Challenger tanks would be on the front line in April or May, without giving an exact timetable.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western arms suppliers were “more and more directly involved in the conflict with NATO countries – but that does not have the ability to change the course of events and will not.”

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The US-based Institute for the Study of War think-tank said last year that “the West’s failure to deliver the necessary supplies” was the main reason why Kiev’s advances have stalled since November.

Ukraine could still retake territory once the promised weapons arrive, the researchers said in a statement.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Russia and Belarus had started a week-long staff training session in preparation for joint exercises in Russia in September.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect its neighbors’ relations with the West, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.

Report by Reuters Bureaus; By Toina Chiaku and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman & Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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