Ukraine’s Defence Minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet President Emmanuel Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia after US President Joe Biden ruled out giving F-16s.
Ukraine planned to push for Western fourth-generation fighters like F-16s after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.
Asked at the White House on Monday if the United States would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters: “No.”
But France and Poland appear to be willing to entertain any such request from Ukraine, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military assistance.
In remarks carried on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed any such move would depend on several factors including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the aircraft would not “touch Russian soil.” He said Reznikov would also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday.
In Poland, Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also did not rule out a possible supply of F-16s to neighbouring Ukraine, in response to a question from a reporter before Biden spoke.
Morawiecki said in remarks posted on his website that any such transfer would take place “in complete coordination” with NATO countries.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukraine president’s office, noted “positive signals” from Poland and said France “does not exclude” such a move in separate posts on his Telegram channel.
Biden’s comment came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia had begun exacting its revenge for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east.
Zelenskyy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its assault after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine won a huge boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock on the issue.
While there was no sign of a broader new Russian offensive, the administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, said Russian troops had secured a foothold in Vuhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins have been a Ukrainian bastion since the outset of the war.
Zelenskyy met the Danish prime minister in Mykolaiv city, to the northeast.