U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would not provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, as Kyiv seeks more sophisticated weapons to fight off Russia’s invasion.
While arriving at the White House Monday, reporters asked if Biden would provide the jets to Ukraine. Biden responded, “No.”
An adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, Yuriy Sak, told Reuters last week that Ukraine planned to push for fighter jets such as the F-16 after securing supplies of battle tanks.
Ukraine won a boost last week when the United States and Germany both promised to send tanks to Ukraine, after Germany hesitated for weeks over sending its Leopard 2 tanks.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hinted Monday at the prospect of more upcoming pledges of military support for Ukraine, saying that “any activity aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s defense powers is under consultation with our NATO partners.”
However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also appeared opposed to sending fighter aircraft.
Scholz, who is currently on a trip to South America, said he regretted the emergence of the discussion on aircraft.
He said Saturday during a stop in Chile that a serious debate is necessary and not a “competition to outdo each other … in which perhaps domestic political motives are in the foreground rather than support for Ukraine.”
When asked by reporters if France would consider sending fighter jets to Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that “nothing is excluded” but laid out multiple conditions before such a step could be taken. Those included that the equipment would not touch Russian soil, would not lead to an escalation of tensions and would not “weaken the capacities of the French army.”
France and Australia said Monday they would jointly produce and send several thousand 155 mm artillery shells to Ukraine.
Also Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called for South Korea to send direct military support to Ukraine. The Seoul government is a growing arms exporter and has a well-equipped, U.S.-backed military.
On the battlefront, Ukraine said Monday that Russian attacks had killed five more civilians and wounded another 13 in the past 24 hours, but the two sides remained deadlocked in tough fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Authorities said the casualties included a woman who was killed and three others who were wounded in Russian attacks on the northeast city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second- largest city. Russian forces had seized much of the Kharkiv region early in the nearly yearlong war, but Ukrainian counteroffensives mostly regained control last August.
Ukraine said Russian strikes in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson killed three people Sunday and injured six. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that residential buildings, a hospital, school, bus station, post office and bank were also damaged by the shelling.
Zelenskyy told reporters in Odesa Monday that Russian forces are trying to take revenge for Ukraine’s battlefield successes.
On Monday, the British Defense Ministry reported in its intelligence update on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that Russia is “likely keeping open” an option for partial mobilization to increase its troops, after stories emerged that Russian border guards have stopped Kyrgyz migrant workers who hold dual passports from leaving the country because their names are on mobilization lists.
Russia is “highly likely” continuing to look for ways to make sure it has the personnel it needs to continue to execute its major offenses in Ukraine, the British ministry said.
Ukraine’s National Security Council chief, Oleksiy Danilov, told RFE/RL that Moscow was preparing for a new offensive on February 24, the anniversary of the Russian invasion.
“Now they are preparing for maximum activation … and they believe that by the anniversary they should have some achievements,” Danilov said. “There is no secret that they are preparing for a new wave by February 24, as they themselves say.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.