Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday he had heard from several European Union leaders at a summit that they were ready to provide Kyiv with aircraft to help fight against Russia’s invasion.
He gave no further details about the pledges, and there was no immediate confirmation from any European countries. But Zelensky’s remarks could indicate one of the biggest shifts yet in Western military support for Ukraine.
“Europe will be with us until our victory. I’ve heard it from a number of European leaders… about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircraft,” Zelensky told a news conference.
“I have a number of bilaterals now, we are going to raise the issue of the fighter jets and other aircraft,” he said.
Moments earlier, Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, posted on social media: “The question of long-range weaponry and fighter jets for Ukraine has been resolved.”
“Details still to follow,” he added.
Western countries that have provided Ukraine with arms have so far refused to send war planes or long range weapons capable of striking deep inside Russia.
But there have been signs that this taboo could be lifted during Zelensky’s European tour, which began on Wednesday with a visit to London and Paris. Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to train Ukrainian pilots to fly advanced NATO fighter jets, although he stopped short of offering to supply the planes.
Zelensky received a warm welcome from European leaders and a standing ovation from the European Parliament on Thursday in Brussels, where he sought more weapons to fend off Russia and a quicker path toward EU membership.
Addressing a summit of the 27 leaders of EU countries, he also called for tighter sanctions on Moscow and punishment for Russian leaders responsible for the attack on Ukraine nearly a year ago.
“Free Europe cannot be imagined without free Ukraine,” he told the leaders.
“I am grateful to all of you who are helping, grateful to everyone who understands how much Ukraine right now needs these possibilities. We need artillery guns, shells for them, modern tanks, long-range missiles, modern aircraft.”
The Kremlin said it would be Ukrainians who suffered if Britain or other Western countries supplied fighter jets to Kyiv, and that the line between indirect and direct Western involvement in the war was disappearing.
“One can only express regret in this regard, and say that such actions … lead to an escalation of tension, prolong the conflict and make the conflict more and more painful for Ukraine,” he added.
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