The West’s effort to potentially send modern fighter jets to Ukraine “carries enormous risks,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned on Saturday, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

The minister’s comments in an interview with TASS come in the wake of the U.S. getting behind a joint international effort to train Ukrainian pilots to use modern fighter aircraft including F-16s. This could also pave the way to eventually send advanced Western combat jets to Ukraine, according to a senior administration official.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the U.S. decision in a tweet on Friday, saying that it “will greatly enhance our army in the sky.” He added that he counted on discussing “the practical implementation of this decision” at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.


“We can see that Western countries continue to stick to an escalation scenario, which carries enormous risks for them,” Grushko said in the interview. “In any case, we will take it into account when making plans. We have all the necessary means to achieve our goals,” he added.

Despite the warnings from Moscow, America, and its allies plan to provide F-16s to Ukraine — although the fighter jets may not necessarily come directly from the United States — as part of a long-term effort to strengthen the country’s security, a senior Biden administration official said Friday.

The timing for when Ukraine will receive the fighter jets — and which countries will provide them — remains unclear, but the official said the planes would not be used for Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive against Russia.

In the coming months, the U.S. and its allies “will decide when to actually provide jets, how many we will provide, and who will provide them,” the official said. The news comes as President Joe Biden on Friday informed leaders of leading industrialized nations that the U.S. will support efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s.

“Discussions about improving the Ukrainian air force reflect our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense,” the senior administration official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on the U.S. to provide F-16s, but Biden had so far refused the requests. In February, Biden said in an interview with ABC News that U.S. military advice showed that Ukraine did not need F-16s at the time.

This report comes on the heels of the head of the Russian private army Wagner claiming on Saturday that his forces have taken control of the city of Bakhmut after the longest and most grinding battle of the Russia-Ukraine war, but Ukrainian defense officials denied it.

In a video posted on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said the city came under complete Russian control at about midday Saturday. He spoke flanked by about half a dozen fighters, with ruined buildings in the background and explosions heard in the distance.

However, after the video appeared, Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said heavy fighting was continuing. “The situation is critical,” she said. “As of now, our defenders, control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in this area.”

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, told The Associated Press that Prigozhin’s claim “is not true. Our units are fighting in Bakhmut.” In a statement on Facebook, the Ukrainian General Staff said “heavy battles for the city of Bakhmut do not stop.”


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