Russia and Belarus have started a week-long session of staff training for the joint command of their regional grouping of forces, the Belarusian defence ministry said on Tuesday.
The training is part of preparation for joint drills the two countries will hold in Russia in September, the ministry added in its statement.
Ukraine defence minister in Paris to ask Macron for jets
Ukraine’s defence minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet President Emmanuel Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after US President Joe Biden ruled out giving F-16s.
In remarks carried on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed any such move would depend on several factors including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the aircraft would not “touch Russian soil.” He said Reznikov would also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday.
Biden says the US will not provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
The United States will not provide the F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine has sought in its fight against Russia, President Joe Biden said on Monday.
Ukraine planned to push for western fourth-generation fighter jets such as the F-16 after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister said on Friday. A Ukrainian air force spokesperson said it would take its pilots about half a year to train on such fighter jets.
Asked if the United States would provide the jets, Biden told reporters at the White House, “No.”
The brief exchange came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Russia had begun exacting its revenge for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east.
Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its assault on Ukraine after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine won a huge boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock on the issue.
“The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” Yuriy Sak, who advises Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters on Friday.
Welcome and summary
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next while.
Our top story this morning: the United States will not provide the F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine has sought in its fight against Russia, President Joe Biden said on Monday, as Russian forces claimed a series of incremental gains in the country’s east.
We’ll have more on this shortly. In the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:
Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s most senior adviser, Andriy Yermak, has suggested Poland is willing to supply Ukraine with the F-16 fighters. Yermak said Ukraine had had “positive signals” from Warsaw in a Telegram posting, although Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was careful to stress his own country would only act in consultation with Nato allies, as Ukraine’s lobbying for the combat jets steps up only a few days after Germany and the US agreed to send over tanks.
Zelenskiy has called for western weapons to be supplied more quickly. Speaking in his nightly address, the Ukrainian president said Russia was hoping to drag out the war, and exhaust his country’s ability to resist the invaders. “So we have to make time our weapon. We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.
The Kremlin warned the west’s supplying of further weapons to Ukraine would only lead to “significant escalation” of the conflict. Kyiv “demands more and more weapons” while Nato countries were “more and more becoming directly involved in the conflict”, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, after Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Andriy Melnyk, called on Germany to send his country a submarine.
Russian forces continued attacks on positions across the frontline near the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Donetsk. Moscow’s troops have been pounding Bakhmut in the Donbas for several months, but in recent days the invaders appeared to have opened up a new effort to gain ground around the village of Vuhledar, 30 miles south-west of Donetsk city.
Ukraine’s military and Russia’s Wagner private military group are both claiming to have control in the area of Blahodatne, eastern Donetsk region. “Units of Ukraine’s defence forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of … Blahodatne … in the Donetsk region,” Ukraine’s military reported, adding its forces also repelled attacks in 13 other settlements in the Donetsk region. Wagner, designated by the US as a transnational criminal organisation, said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday that its units had taken control of Blahodatne.
The Russian government on Monday banned domestic oil exporters and customs bodies from adhering to western-imposed price caps on Russian crude. The measure was issued to help enforce President Vladimir Putin’s decree of 27 December that prohibited the supply of crude oil and oil products from 1 February for five months, to nations that abide by the caps. The new Russian act bans corporates and individuals from including oil price cap mechanisms in their contracts.
Ukraine’s state-run energy operator Ukrenergo has said there is a “significant” deficit in the country’s energy system due to damage caused by Russian missile attacks. Ukraine’s energy system had “survived” 13 rocket attacks and 15 drone strikes from Russian forces, which had “caused significant damage to high-voltage facilities and power plants”, it added.
Ukraine’s military will spend nearly $550m (£444m / €505m) on drones (UAVs) in 2023, and 16 supply deals have already been signed with Ukrainian manufacturers, defence minister Oleksii Reznikov has said. Ukraine has received significant supplies of UAVs from its partners but Kyiv is now seeking to boost domestic production to build what officials cast as an “army of drones”.