Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said that the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would raise the issue of NATO’s involvement in the conflict.
“There is no infrastructure for operating the F-16 in Ukraine and the required number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either,” Antonov said in remarks published Monday on the channel.
“What would happen if American fighters took off from NATO airfields under the control of foreign ‘volunteers’?
Months ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western allies to provide advanced combat aircraft, fearing that such a step would be faced by the escalation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But amid a flurry of diplomacy from Zelensky ahead of the just-concluded G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced last week that they had agreed to form an “international coalition” to provide the fighter jet. Support Ukraine.
Then US President Joe Biden on Friday approved training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, and Zelensky assured Biden that the planes would not be used to fly over Russian territory.
Over the weekend, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned that Western countries would face “grave risks” if they continued to supply the F-16s.
Antonov said that any Ukrainian attack on Crimea, which Moscow invaded and annexed in 2014, would be considered an attack on Russia.
“It is important for the United States to be fully aware of the Russian response,” Antonov said.
The international community does not recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea.
Air defense experts say the US-made F-16 fighter jets will give Ukraine an edge over the Russian air force, but only if paired with powerful missiles and targeting intelligence, which the West also has to offer and which would appeal to Ukraine’s Western allies. more actively in the war.