F-16 transfer to raise questions of NATO involvement – Russia

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The transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would raise the question of NATO’s involvement in the conflict, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said.

“There is no infrastructure for the operation of the F-16 in Ukraine and the needed number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either,” Antonov said in remarks published on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel.

“What will happen if the American fighters take off from NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?”

US President Joe Biden on Friday endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy assured Biden that the aircraft would not be used to go into Russian territory.

Antonov said that any Ukrainian strike on Crimea would be considered a strike on Russia.

“It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response,” Antonov said.

Ukraine has intensified its strikes on Russian-held targets especially on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he was “upset” that he and Volodymyr Zelensky did not meet at the G7 summit, adding his Ukrainian counterpart seemed uninterested in negotiating peace with Russia.

Zelensky, who emerged from the summit in Hiroshima with fresh diplomatic support and pledges of more military aid, had sought a one-on-one meeting with Lula, who has faced accusations of being soft on Russia over its invasion.

Both leaders said scheduling conflicts had prevented them from meeting – which Zelensky quipped had likely left his Brazilian counterpart “disappointed”.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I was upset, because I’d like to meet him and discuss the matter,” Lula told a news conference before heading home from Japan.

But “Zelensky is a grown-up. He knows what he’s doing,” he added.

Lula said his team had scheduled a meeting with Zelensky for Sunday afternoon. But the Ukrainian leader ran late, and his own agenda was full after that, he said.

Zelensky got resounding support from G7 leaders at the summit, including long-sought US backing for access to F-16 fighter jets.

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