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Putin issues F-16 warning to kyiv sponsors


If aircraft operated by Ukraine carry out sorties from third countries, they will become legitimate targets for Russia.

If American-made F-16 fighter jets eventually arrive in Ukraine, Russia will destroy them just like it has other Western equipment, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

Several NATO member states have promised to donate their F-16s to kyiv and have trained Ukrainian pilots to fly them, but no deliveries have yet been made. Russia has warned the West that fielding nuclear-capable aircraft would constitute an unacceptable escalation of the Ukrainian conflict.

“If they deliver the F-16s, I think you know better than most that it’s not going to change the situation on the battlefield,” the president said. “And we will destroy these aircraft just as we have destroyed tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launch systems.”

The comments came during Putin’s visit to Torzhok airbase in the Tver region, which houses the 344th training center for Russian combat pilots, including personnel trained to take part in the Ukrainian conflict.

If F-16s flown by Ukrainian pilots end up being based in third countries, they will become legitimate targets for Russia, Putin added.

“Of course, if they are used from third country airfields, they become a legitimate target for us, wherever they are,” he said.

Russia is well aware that the 1970s-era jet can potentially carry nuclear weapons, and this will be taken into account in combat operations, Putin noted.

kyiv has lost much of its air force over the past two years, including Soviet-era jets donated by several NATO members as replacements. The Ukrainian government eventually requested F-16s from the US-led bloc.

The single-engine fighter is a late 1970s model, originally manufactured by General Dynamics before being acquired by Lockheed Martin. This requires impeccable airstrips, which are rare in Ukraine, sparking speculation that Ukrainian-operated jets could instead be stationed in neighboring NATO countries.



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