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6 Jun, 2024 21:04

France to give fighter jets to Ukraine – Macron

The French president also reiterated that Kiev can carry out long-range missile strikes on Russian soil
France to give fighter jets to Ukraine – Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France will supply Kiev with Mirage 2000 fighter jets and train Ukrainian pilots on the jets. However, Macron did not specify how many planes would be provided, or when they would arrive.

“Tomorrow we will launch a new cooperation and announce the transfer of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets to Ukraine, made by French manufacturer Dassault, and train their Ukrainian pilots in France,” Macron told France’s TF1 broadcaster on Thursday.

Alongside US-made F-16 fighters, Kiev has long requested Mirage 2000 warplanes. In a post on social media in January, the commander of the Ukrainian Air Force said that these jets – roughly comparable to the F-16 but considered more maneuverable – could “increase the combat potential” of Ukraine’s Soviet-era fleet.

France has around 26 Mirage 2000-5 and 65 older Mirage 2000-D aircraft in active service, according to Flight International’s World Air Forces rankings. It is unclear whether Macron intends to spare any of the French Air Force’s active duty fleet, or whether out-of-service jets will be recommissioned for Kiev.

Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway have all pledged to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighters, although none have actually been delivered. Last month, Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky announced that Belgium would supply 30 1980s-built F-16s, bringing to 85 the number pledged in total.

At the outset of the Ukraine conflict, Macron positioned himself as a voice of caution, warning other NATO member states that sending heavy weapons to Kiev could be too escalatory a move. However, he has since emerged as one of the most pro-interventionist NATO leaders, declaring earlier this year that the idea of sending Western ground troops into combat against Russia “could not be ruled out.” 

Ukrainian army chief Aleksandr Syrsky said last week that French military instructors would soon be deployed in Ukraine. While the Ukrainian defense ministry quickly walked back these claims, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said that the question of sending French instructors to the country was “not taboo.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that there are “numerous facts” indicating that French instructors are already working in Ukraine and warned that these operatives represent an “absolutely legitimate target” for Russia’s armed forces.

Macron told TF1 that he is not worried about escalating the conflict. The French president then announced that he would back the formation of a 4,500-strong “French brigade” of French-trained and equipped Ukrainian soldiers, and repeated his announcement last week that Ukraine can use French missiles for long-range strikes on Russian soil.

“We stand with the Ukrainians. Ukraine is allowed to strike targets where missiles have been fired [from],” he told the network, adding that “we forbid hitting civilians with our weapons.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would consider arming the enemies of Western nations who give Ukraine the means to carry out these strikes. “This is a recipe for very serious problems,” he warned. 

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