Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said Ukraine needs to secure the supply of new weapons from its Western backers and that arms deliveries need to speed up.
“It is very important to maintain the dynamics of defense support from our partners. The speed of supply has been and will be one of the key factors in this war,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.
The Ukrainian leader said that Russia seeks to “exhaust” Ukrainian forces, and for that reason, Kyiv must “speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine.”
The same day President Biden announced last week that the US would be providing Ukraine with M1 Abrams tanks, Zelensky was demanding more. Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelensky, said Saturday that Ukraine is in “fast-track” talks with its Western backers on the possibility of receiving fighter jets and long-range missiles.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected the idea Ukraine would be receiving fighter jets. But Scholz previously ruled out sending heavy tanks to Ukraine and eventually caved under the pressure of Germany’s allies. Biden pledged to send the Abrams tanks as part of a deal to get Scholz’s government to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
Ukraine has its eye on US-made F-16s and French-made Rafale or Mirage fighter jets. While Kyiv has yet to receive any Western-made fighter jets, it is already preparing for them by working to improve its airfields so that advanced aircraft can operate in the country.
“We have to prepare the airfield infrastructure so that pilots could land safely on the airstrips,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuri Ignat told reporters Friday, according to The War Zone. “The works are in progress in different regions of Ukraine with the support of the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Defense and other government agencies to support us in the creation of this airfield network.”
POLITICO reported Saturday that the idea of sending Ukraine F-16s is gaining momentum among some officials in the Pentagon. The provision of Western fighter jets to Ukraine would be a major escalation of military aid and would be viewed by Moscow as a major provocation. Since the US and Germany announced they would be sending tanks, Russian officials have been warning that NATO’s growing role in the conflict could lead to a “full-blown” war in Europe.