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Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov Alamy Stock Photo
Escalation risks

Russia warns countries against hosting Ukraine military aircraft

The US said it is ‘working actively’ on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with jets.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Mar 2022

RUSSIA HAS WARNED Ukraine’s neighbours including NATO member Romania against hosting Kyiv’s military aircraft, saying they could end up being involved in an armed conflict.

“We know for sure that Ukrainian combat aircraft have flown to Romania and other neighbouring countries,” Russia’s defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video briefing.

“The use of the airfield network of these countries for basing Ukrainian military aviation with the subsequent use of force against Russia’s army can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict,” he added.

Konashenkov also claimed that “practically all” Ukraine’s combat-ready aircraft had been destroyed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly demanded that Western powers enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent more Russian attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow will consider any country imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to have entered into the military conflict.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States was “working actively” on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with jets to fight invading Russians.

The deal, according to reports, could involve Poland handing over its existing MIG-29s, a Soviet/Russian-made jet fighter Ukrainian pilots are familiar with, and the US would then provide its F-16 fighters to Poland as replacements.

US officials, including Blinken, had downplayed the possibility of any NATO country supplying besieged Ukraine since the beginning of this week.

But speaking in Moldova today, Blinken confirmed it was under active discussion.

“Can’t speak to a timeline, but I can just say we’re looking at it very, very actively,” he told reporters.

“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland decide to supply those planes.”

The comments came one day after Blinken met Ukraine’s foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the Poland-Ukraine border and Kuleba pressed him for the aircraft.

After 10 days of a brutal war, Kuleba said, “The highest demand that we have is in fighter jets, attack aircraft, and air-defense systems.”

“If we lose the skies, there will be much more blood on the ground,” he said after the meeting, with Blinken standing beside him.

While a significant part of Ukraine’s air force remains intact since the war began on 24 February, both Ukraine and Russia have sustained significant losses and neither controls the airspace over the country.

But Russia has a massive air force that if fully mobilized could decimate Ukraine.

korczawa-poland-05th-mar-2022-u-s-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-left-and-ukrainian-foreign-minister-dmytro-kuleba-are-pictured-meeting-in-korczowa-poland-at-the-ukrainian-polish-border-c US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, are pictured meeting in Korczowa, Poland, at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Escalation risks

The United States had resisted a deal, along with some key NATO members, concerned that Russia would interpret it as NATO – Poland is a member – actively joining the Ukraine war, and spark a much wider conflict.

But supporters of furnishing Ukraine with more aircraft from a NATO country argue that the alliance, and the US especially, have already been giving Kyiv’s army tonnes of lethal weaponry and munitions every day since the war began.

Another problem, however, is that the United States does not have any F-16s coming off the production line to readily supply Poland, which also faces a potential threat from Russia and needs aircraft to defend itself.

Any deal would require White House approval and support in the US Congress, and likely NATO support as well.

Congress would likely go along, after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged lawmakers yesterday in a conference call to provide more arms.

But Poland also was not necessarily on board with the idea.

“Poland won’t send its fighter jets to Ukraine as well as allow to use its airports. We significantly help in many other areas,” the Chancellery of the Prime Minister wrote in a tweet today.

– © AFP 2022

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