| 30 November 2023, Thursday |

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy in Netherlands in push to boost air defences

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy came in the Netherlands on Sunday as part of a continuing effort to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses, only days after the US authorized the Netherlands and Denmark’s probable supply of F-16 fighter fighters.

The Netherlands, together with Denmark, has recently led international efforts to train Ukrainian pilots for F-16s and eventually supply the planes to assist oppose Russia’s air supremacy, which invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“The main issue is F-16 for Ukraine to protect our people from Russian terror. We are getting stronger”, Zelenskiy said in a post on Telegram.

The agenda also includes the Global Peace Summit and bringing Russia to justice, Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy will meet outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a military air base in Eindhoven, Rutte’s office said without providing further details.

Rutte said in May the Netherlands was seriously considering handing over F-16’s, but it’s not clear how many they would have available and when.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Saturday said training had begun for Ukrainians to operate F-16’s, but added it would take at least six months and possibly longer to also train engineers and mechanics.

Training will take place in Denmark and Romania, officials from a coalition of 11 nations have said.

Ukraine, which expects several dozens of pilots to be trained, said last week it did not expect to be able to use F-16’s this autumn or winter.

The Netherlands could deliver F-16’s as its armed forces are transitioning to newer F-35 fighters.

According to figures from the Dutch defence ministry, the Netherlands currently has 24 operational F-16s which will be phased out by mid-2024. Another 18 of the jets made by Lockheed Martin are currently available for sale, of which 12 have been provisionally sold.

On Saturday Zelenskiy was in Sweden, where he discussed the possibility of receiving Gripen jets.

  • Reuters