Zelenskyy's jet dream faces setback as key ally says delivery will cause 'very serious' problems

12 February 2023, 13:21 | Updated: 12 February 2023, 22:44

Zelenskyy has been visiting European nations to appeal for fighter jets
Zelenskyy has been visiting European nations to appeal for fighter jets. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

President Zelenskyy's hopes for NATO members' jets to help fight back the Russian invasion would create "serious problems" for Poland, the nation's leader said in a backward step for Ukraine.

Warsaw leader Andrzej Duda told Laura Kuenssberg that handing the warring nation F-16 aircraft is a "very serious" decision that will be "not easy" to take.

Mr Zelenskyy has been visiting nations across Europe in an attempt to convince leaders to send fighter jets to bolster Ukraine's defences against Russian forces.

Last week, the Ukrainian president appealed to the UK Parliament as he said labelled potential British fighter "wings for freedom".

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "nothing was off the table" when it comes to supporting Ukraine, but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appeared to cast doubt on sending jets in the short-term.

Poland's President has cast further doubt on Zelenskyy's jet dream, suggesting it would not be an "easy decision" to send their jets to Ukraine.

Read more: Send Ukraine jets and you're responsible for the consequences: Putin's chilling threat to UK after Zelenskyy's plea

Read more: US military shoots down another unidentified flying object in fourth incident within eight days

Polish PM Andrzej Duda
Polish PM Andrzej Duda. Picture: Getty

“A decision today to donate any kind of jets, any F-16, to donate them outside Poland is a very serious decision and it’s not an easy one for us to take,” he told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

He said that Poland currently has less than 50 jets, saying “this poses serious problems if we donate even a small part of them anywhere.

"We have not enough of these jets," he added.

The comments strike a significant blow to Zelenskyy's hopes, with Poland being one of Ukraine's major allies.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has renewed his calls for fighter jets across European nations this week
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has renewed his calls for fighter jets across European nations this week. Picture: Getty

It comes after Putin threatened a major "response" if the British government were to send jets to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Mr Zelenskyy made a surprise first visit to Britain, his first since the outbreak of the war last year.

The Ukrainian leader, who has been hailed by international leaders for his stewardship of the country during Russia's invasion, warned that the conflict could "stagnate" is the West doesn't provide Ukraine with fighter jets.

Speaking at a joint press conference this evening Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said "nothing is off the table" when pushed on the possibility of supplying aircraft and announced Britain's intention to train Ukrainian fighter pilots.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has suggested it is unlikely jets will be sent to Ukraine in the short term
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has suggested it is unlikely jets will be sent to Ukraine in the short term. Picture: Getty

But Russia has threatened a "response" if the Government does supply the war-torn country with jets, with some Nato states concerned about provoking a direct clash with Putin's forces.

The Russian Embassy in London made a strong warning against the UK supplying the aircraft, saying Britain would bear responsibility "for another twist of escalation and the ensuing military-political consequences for the European continent and the entire world".

Mr Sunak said that if the UK was to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, conversations would need to happen with allies who provide the aircraft.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Picture: Getty

The prime minister said: "There is a supply chain around such sophisticated aircraft.

"Those are conversations that the president and I are having and making sure we understand all the supply chain needs that go alongside aircraft like that - making sure they can be used and used safely, kept safely.

"And it is also a conversation we are having with our allies because, particularly some of the aircraft we have, are done through joint treaty with multiple other countries - I think we have seen that with previous bits of kit that others have had to give."

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a news conference at an army camp
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a news conference at an army camp. Picture: Getty

Read more: 'Wings for freedom': Zelenskyy thanks Britain for support as he asks for fighter jets in historic Parliamentary address

In his visit to the UK, Mr Zelenskyy thanked Britain for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine following the provision of game-changing tanks to the war-torn country.

He said he looked forward to the day of victory for Ukraine but, until then, "evil" is still present.

He said he was "proud" of his air force but the country needs more planes to fight the war.

"We pay with our lives... with the lives of our heroes who risk life and death every day," he explained.

This caller says anyone hesitant to send military arms to Ukraine should be 'embarrassed'

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