- Biden says “no” when asked about F-16s for Ukraine
- Zelenskiy says Moscow seeks ‘great revenge’
- The Russian administrator claims a place in Vuhledar
- Kyiv could regain ground when Western weapons arrive – group
KYIV, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defense minister is expected to meet President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday 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-16 seconds.
Ukraine planned to push for fourth-generation Western fighters such as F-16s after securing the supply of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.
Asked at the White House on Monday whether the United States would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters, “No.”
But France and Poland appear willing to meet any request from Ukraine, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military assistance.
Speaking on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed that any such move would depend on several factors, including the need to prevent escalation and assurances that the plane would not “touch Russian soil “. He said Reznikov will also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday.
In Poland on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also did not rule out a possible supply of F-16s to neighboring Ukraine, in response to a question from a reporter before Biden spoke.
Morawiecki said in statements posted on his website that any such transfer would be carried out “in full coordination” with NATO countries.
Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s president’s office, pointed to “positive signs” from Poland and said France “does not rule out” such a move in separate posts on his Telegram channel.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was in Japan on Tuesday where he thanked Tokyo for the “aircraft and cargo capabilities” it is providing to Ukraine. A day earlier South Korea urged Seoul to increase its military support to Ukraine.
Biden’s comment came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had begun retaliating against Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east, where it appeared to be making incremental gains.
Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow intends to step up its assault after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine got a big 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 new, wider Russian offensive, the administrator of the Russian-held parts of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, said Russian troops were ‘had settled in Vuhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins have been a Ukrainian stronghold. since the beginning of the war.
Pushilin said that despite “heavy losses”, Ukrainian forces were consolidating positions at industrial facilities.
‘BATTLE FOR EVERY METRES’
Pushilin said Ukrainian forces were sending reinforcements to Bakhmut, Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns running north-south west of Donetsk city. Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces were making advances there, but “it’s not clear, meaning there’s a battle for literally every meter here.”
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine still controlled Maryinka and Vuhledar, where Russian attacks were less intense on Monday.
Pushilin’s adviser, Yan Gagin, said fighters from the Russian Wagner mercenary force had taken partial control of a supply road leading to Bakhmut, a town that has been Moscow’s focus for months.
A day earlier, Wagner’s chief said his fighters had secured Blahodatne, a village north of Bakhmut, although Kyiv said it had repelled attacks on Blahodatne.
Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield. But the reported fighting locations indicated clear, if gradual, Russian gains.
In the central region of Zaporizhzhia and southern Kherson, Russian forces shelled more than 40 settlements, the Ukrainian General Staff said. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.
The Russians also launched four rocket attacks on Otsakhiv south of Mykolaiv, the military said, on the day Zelenskiy met the Danish prime minister in the northeastern city of Mykolaiv.
Zelenskiy is urging the West to speed up the delivery of its promised weapons so Ukraine can go on the offensive, but most of the hundreds of tanks promised by Western countries are months away from being delivered.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger tanks donated by the UK would be on the front line around April or May, without giving an exact timetable.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Western countries supplying weapons means that “NATO countries are more and more directly involved in the conflict, but it does not have the potential to change the course of events and does not he will.”
The US-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said “the West’s failure to provide the necessary materiel” last year was the main reason why Kyiv’s advances had stalled since November.
Investigators said in a report that Ukraine could still retake the territory once the promised weapons arrive.
The Belarusian defense ministry said on Tuesday that Russia and Belarus had started a week-long staff training session to prepare for joint drills in Russia in September.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect itself from its neighbor’s ties to the West, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
Reuters bureau reports; Written by Doina Chiacu and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Simon Cameron-Moore
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