Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated on Monday that US-built F-16 fighter planes can “accommodate” nuclear weapons and warned that providing them to Kiev would intensify the conflict.
“We must keep in mind that one of the F-16 modifications can ‘accommodate’ nuclear weapons,” Lavrov said in a speech at a military installation in Tajikistan’s Dushanbe, according to a transcript on the ministry’s website.
“If they do not understand this, then they are worthless as military strategists and planners.”
White House spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday declined to discuss the nuclear capabilities of the F-16 fighters but noted that U.S. President Joe Biden has been consistent that he does not want to see the war escalate, certainly not into the nuclear realm.
“The purpose of providing advanced fighter aircraft is to help Ukraine defend itself defend its airspace and its territorial integrity period,” Kirby said.
Kirby also had a message for Lavrov: “If you’re worried about Ukrainian military capabilities, then you should take your troops and leave Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has long appealed for the F-16 jets, saying their appearance with Ukrainian pilots would be a sure signal from the world that Russia’s invasion would end in defeat
Biden told G7 leaders last month that Washington supported joint allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters.
U.S. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, said there was no final decision on Washington sending aircraft.