Western countries have only just approved sending battle tanks to Ukraine, but Kiev is already requesting F-16s to help repel the Russian invasion as fighting enters its 343rd day.

Norway and other countries that have purchased Leopard tanks need Berlin's approval if they want to transfer them to another country.
Norway and other countries that have purchased Leopard tanks need Berlin's approval if they want to transfer them to another country. (AFP Archive)

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The United States has ruled out supplying American fighter jets to Kiev but European nations remain undecided.

Germany, where the decision to send the Leopard tanks was seen as a major strategic turnaround, has ruled out sending warplanes.

Poland on Tuesday said it was not having "official discussions" on transferring any of its F-16s to Ukraine.

Britain appeared to rule out sending its combat planes.

France's President Emmanuel Macron said his country had not ruled out the delivery of fighter planes, but that Ukraine had not yet made such a request.

Others could be more eager to help.

Slovakia has said it would be prepared to send over MiG-29 fighter jets, while Dutch politicians recently floated the idea of sending Ukraine the F-16 jets it wants.

Experts believe bolstering the Ukrainian air force could allow Kiev to hit Russian troops deep in occupied territory and dissuade Russian bombers from hitting civilian and energy infrastructure in land it still controls.

But they warn the warplanes would not be a miracle solution to defeat the Russians.

Here are the other developments: 

1515 GMT - Hungary FM: Sweden should 'act differently' to join NATO

Sweden's government should “act differently” if it wants to clinch Turkish support for its bid to join NATO, Hungary's foreign minister said Tuesday, adding that a recent Quran-burning protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm was “unacceptable".

Peter Szijjarto made the remark at a news conference following talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Hungary’s capital Budapest.

Both diplomats addressed the January 21 anti-Turkish protest that increased tensions between Ankara and Stockholm as Sweden seeks Turkey’s approval to join the military alliance.

Read more here

1430 GMT - Russia slams 'absurd' Macron comments

Russia criticised comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who refused this week to rule out delivering fighter jets to Ukraine but also warned against the risk of escalation.

"Forgive me but this is absurd. Is the president of France really certain that if arms, heavy weapons and aircraft are supplied to the Kiev regime to conduct combat operations, this will not lead to an escalation of the situation?" foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

1420 GMT - Putin says defence ministry must stop shelling

Russian President Vladimir Putin told a government meeting that shelling of Russian regions from Ukraine must not be permitted, and this was the task of the defence ministry, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

1224 GMT - Russia hands jail term to exiled journalist over Ukraine comments

A Russian court sentenced in absentia veteran journalist Alexander Nevzorov to eight years in prison for spreading "false information" about Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine.

The verdict is the latest in a series of high-profile rulings under new legislation that opponents of the Kremlin say was designed to criminalise criticism of the conflict. 

Nevzorov, 64, came under pressure from authorities for alleging that Russian forces deliberately shelled a maternity hospital in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine that was captured by Moscow after a long siege.

1214 GMT - Ukraine raids homes, offices in graft clampdown

Ukraine expanded a clampdown on corruption with coordinated searches of residences linked to a high-profile oligarch and former interior minister, and tax offices in the capital, a senior official said.

The head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's party, David Arakhamia, said on social media that a house belonging to politically connected oligarch Igor Kolomoisky was searched alongside that of former interior minister Arsen Avakov. Tax offices were raided and customs officials were also fired, he added. 

1130 GMT - Long-range weapons for Ukraine will not deter Russia: Kremlin

The Kremlin said that any deliveries of long-range weapons to Ukraine by Western countries would not change Russia's military objectives in Ukraine or change fighting on the battlefield.

Kiev has begun asking its military backers for modern fighter jets and missiles with greater range to strike targets deeper inside Russian-controlled territory.

"This is a direct course to whipping up tension and to escalating the level (of fighting). It would require greater efforts from us. But again, it won't change the course of events," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

1030 GMT - Ally of Ukraine's president confirms raids on homes of billionaire, ex-minister

A top governing party official confirmed that security officials had raided the homes of one of Ukraine's richest men and a former interior minister, and said the country would change during the war with Russia.

David Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People party's parliamentary faction, said there were also searches at Ukraine's Tax Office and that the management team of the Customs Service would be dismissed.

"The country will change during the war. If someone is not ready for change, then the state itself wi ll come and help them change," he wrote on the Telegram messaging in app.

0742 GMT -  Spain to send up to six Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine

Madrid plans to send between four and six German-built Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais citing unidentified government sources.

The actual number will depend on the condition of the battle tanks in storage and how many other countries will eventually supply to Ukraine, El Pais reported.

A spokesperson for the Spanish Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kiev secured pledges from the West this month to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia, with Moscow trying to make incremental advances in eastern Ukraine. 

0651 GMT - Gazprom to ship 29.4 mcm of gas to Europe via Ukraine 

Russia's Gazprom said it will ship 29.4 million cubic metres (mcm) of gas to Europe via Ukraine, up from Tuesday's level of 24.5 mcm.

Gazprom had shipped between 41-43 million cubic metres via Ukraine daily during the second half of 2022.

Since the conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine last year, shipment of gas from Russia to Europe has declined, with European countries seeking alternative sources of gas and due to lower demand because of a warmer winter season.

0351 GMT - Netanyahu says would consider mediator role if asked

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he was considering military aid to Ukraine and was willing to serve as a mediator, following US calls for more active involvement.

Netanyahu made no firm commitments to Ukraine and Israel has preserved a relationship with Russia, which controls the skies in neighbouring Syria and has turned a blind eye to Israeli strikes on targets of Iran.

Netanyahu was asked in an interview with CNN if Israel could provide assistance to Ukraine such as Iron Dome, the US-backed technology that defends Israel from air attack.

"Well, I'm certainly looking into it," Netanyahu said.

He confirmed that the United States has shifted a little-known stockpile of artillery it stations in Israel to Ukraine and he cast the Israeli state's own operations against Iran as part of a similar effort.

2215 GMT - US readies new Ukraine aid package

The United States is readying more than $2 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine that is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time and other munitions and weapons, two US officials briefed on the matter have told the Reuters news agency.

The weapons aid is expected to be announced as soon as later this week, the officials said. It is also expected to include support equipment for Patriot air defence systems, precision guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons, they added.

One of the officials said that a portion of the package, $1.725 billion, would come from a fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows President Joe Biden's administration to get weapons from industry rather than from existing US weapons stocks.

The new weapon aid is expected to include precision guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons.
The new weapon aid is expected to include precision guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons. (Reuters Archive)

For live updates from Tuesday (January 31), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies