Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, meets with Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his visit to Eindhoven, Netherlands, Sunday Aug. 20, 2023. AP
Zelensky is meeting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a military air base in the southern city of Eindhoven. The Ukrainian leader was in Sweden a day earlier.
The U.S. approval Friday for the Netherlands and Denmark to deliver American-made F-16s to Ukraine was seen as a major boost for Kyiv, even though the fighter jets won’t have an impact any time soon on the almost 18-month war.
Ukraine has long pleaded for the sophisticated fighter to give it a combat edge. It recently launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s forces without air cover, placing its troops at the mercy of Russian aviation and artillery.
The Dutch and Danish governments are also involved in a coalition that is working to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the advanced fighter jets.
Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said Friday that the training of Ukrainian pilots is starting this month. Officials have previously said that Ukrainian pilots will need six to eight months of training.
Washington says the F-16s — like the advanced U.S. Abrams tanks — will be crucial in the long term as Kyiv faces down Russia.
Ukraine has been relying on older aircraft, such as Russian-made MiG29 and Sukhoi jets. F-16s have newer technology and targeting capabilities. They are also more versatile, experts say.
In a video message earlier Sunday, Zelensky vowed a stern retaliation to a Russian missile strike the previous day in the center of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv that killed seven people and wounded over 100 others.