Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told supporters gathered outside Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Palace that he was “confident” the delivery of F-16 fighter jets would allow his country to defeat Russia.
The first F-16s to Ukraine from NATO were announced by Denmark and the Netherlands on Sunday, with President Zelensky visiting the former the following day. Delivery of the jets – the first of their kind to be delivered to Ukraine – was approved by Washington D.C. earlier in the week.
Denmark and the Netherlands agreed to donate up to 61 F-16s to Ukraine once pilot training had been completed. 19 jets will be donated by the Danes over the next three years, starting with six in the New Year. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not give a concrete figure, although stated that his country was already in the process of replacing 42 F-16s with more advanced F-35s.
Ukraine has desperately sought NATO-standard F-16s since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Despite a promise of Soviet-era MiG-29s earlier this year, Zelensky has repeatedly called for more advanced weaponry to combat Russia in the air.
Reactions From All Parties
In the Danish capital on Monday, President Zelensky addressed thousands of onlookers and supporters following Sunday’s announcement.
“Today we are confident that Russia will lose this war,” Zelensky said. “The main thing is what we prove with our victory, with our cooperation… Together we prove that life is a value, that people matter. Freedom matters, Europe matters.”
“It will be a common victory. Of truth, of democracy, of our people, of our nations,” he added.
Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command added that the fighter jets would “win the war” for his country. “Air superiority is the key to success on the ground, we should all understand that,” he added in a televised interview.
Russia has long warned that delivery of NATO-standard jets would be an escalation of the conflict. In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin would consider F-16s a “nuclear” threat due to their ability to carry atomic weapons.
Russian ambassador to Denmark Vladimir Barbin repeated the escalation claim in a statement cited by the Ritzau news agency. “The fact that Denmark has now decided to donate 19 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine leads to an escalation of the conflict,” said Barbin. “By hiding behind a premise that Ukraine itself must determine the conditions for peace, Denmark seeks with its actions and words to leave Ukraine with no other choice but to continue the military confrontation with Russia.”
Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen reiterated that Ukraine was only permitted to use its donated F-16s within its own borders. “We donate weapons under the condition that they are used to drive the enemy out of the territory of Ukraine. And no further than that,” he said on Monday. “Those are the conditions, whether it’s tanks, fighter planes or something else.”
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
From the Vault