The Dallas Morning News
Kyiv defense chief expects warplanes
Question is what kind, confident leader says
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s defense minister expressed confidence Sunday that Western allies would agree to the country’s latest weapons request — warplanes to fight off Russian forces who invaded nearly a year ago.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a news conference in Kyiv that Ukraine has already received everything from its “wish list to Santa,” except planes.
“There will be planes, too,” Reznikov predicted. “The question is just what kind exactly . ... Consider that this mission is already completed.”
So far, Ukraine has won support from Baltic nations and Poland in its quest to obtain Western fighter jets. But several Western leaders have expressed concern that providing warplanes could provoke the Kremlin and draw their countries deeper into the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands and wreaked massive destruction.
Kyiv says such jets are essential to challenging Russia’s air superiority and ensuring success against a Russian offensive that Reznikov predicted could begin around the war’s one-year anniversary, Feb. 24.
“Not all Western weapons will arrive by then, but we have the resources and reserves to help stabilize and sustain the offensive,” Reznikov said.
Since the war began, Western leaders have balked at some of Ukraine’s requests, such as for longer-range missiles and
tanks, only to agree later. The planes are the latest example.
Ukraine has moved its warplanes and concealed air defense assets, hampering Moscow’s efforts to gain control of the skies. After suffering early losses, the Russian air force has avoided venturing deep into Ukraine and has mostly focused on close front-line support.
German-made tanks are on the way to Ukraine. Reznikov said his forces would begin training on Leopard tanks in Europe on Monday, before their delivery to Ukraine. So far, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Poland and the U.S. have announced they will supply tanks to Ukraine.
The Kremlin has said Western countries’ supply of increasingly sophisticated weaponry will only prolong the conflict, and it has characterized NATO as a direct participant.
Reznikov, commenting on the supply of Western weapons and the state of the Ukrainian army, took the rhetoric further on Sunday, telling reporters: “I absolutely boldly claim that we have become a de facto NATO country. We only have a de jure part left.”
Ukraine has applied to join NATO, as have two of Russia’s other neighbors, Finland and Sweden.
On the battlefield, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said four people were injured Sunday when a Russian S-300 missile fell near an apartment block in Kharkiv city, and another was hurt when a missile hit a university building.