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Ukraine updates: Kyiv urges quick decision on fighter jets

February 14, 2023

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Andrij Melnyk, said Kyiv expected its Western allies to reach an agreement to deliver the jets. Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers are set to hold a two-day summit. DW has the latest.

Eurofighter jets take part in the NATO Air Shielding exercise over Lask, central Poland.
Ukraine is now asking for modern fighter jets from alliesImage: Radoslaw Jozwiak/AFP/Getty Images

Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, called for a swift decision on the question of fighter jets being supplied to Ukraine by Germany. He told German broadcaster ARD late Monday that German experts had called the delivery "just a question of time." 

The longer the decision was delayed, the more challenging it would be for Ukraine to defeat Russia, Melnyk emphasized.

With the decision being delayed, no Ukrainian pilots were being trained, while Russian President Vladimir Putin could continue sending further tanks to the battlefront, he said.

"The time factor is crucial for us," he continued. Melnyk also stressed that Ukraine was expecting a fighter jet alliance, similar to the agreement on battle tanks, to be forged between Western powers. 

"It is clear —and all military experts say so — that Ukraine cannot win this war without the air force and without the navy," he said. "This war can only be ended on the battlefield." 

Negotiations were inconceivable at the current point in time, Melnyk said. 

NATO: Ukraine offensive likely in spring

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Tuesday, February 14.

US awards $522 million contracts for artillery shells for Ukraine

The US Army announced that it had awarded $522 million (€486 million) in orders to two companies to manufacture 155 mm artillery ammunition for Ukraine.

The orders, officially decided on January 30, went to Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. and Global Military Products Inc. and came amid worries that Ukraine was fast depleting the stockpiles of artillery shells from the United States and other allies.

Deliveries of the new ammunition are scheduled to begin in March of this year, the Army said in a statement. The contract is funded by the Pentagon's Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. 

Ukraine and Russia have fired huge amounts of artillery munitions at each other since the Russian invasion began almost a year ago.

In November a US official said Russian forces were firing about 20,000 artillery rounds a day. Ukraine's rate was between 4,000 and 7,000 rounds per day. The rates have plunged since then, as the winter set in and both sides face shortages of ammunition.

Zelenskyy says situation in east Ukraine 'extremely difficult'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the situation on the Ukraine front line was "extremely difficult," especially in the country's eastern regions that Russia seeks to fully control.

"The situation on the frontline, especially in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, remains extremely difficult. It is literally a battle for every meter of Ukrainian land," Zelenskyy said in his evening address to the nation.

He also said that during today's Ramstein format meeting, Ukraine received "strong decisions to protect our country and strengthen our warriors." 

"Our partners have confirmed more air defense systems, more tanks, more artillery and shells, and more training for our military," the Ukrainian president said.

Pistorius says fighter jets for Ukraine not a focus now

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said that supplying Ukraine with fighter jets was not a focus at the moment but would certainly be discussed.

Securing Ukraine's airspace is the priority, he told German public broadcaster ARD. "Only when the skies over Ukraine remain safe over the next three, four months, then you can talk about all other further steps," Pistorius said.

The question of possibly supplying Ukraine with fighter jets remains open after the Tuesday's meeting of around 50 countries to coordinate arms deliveries to the war-torn country. 

Austin expects Ukrainian offensive in spring, no announcement on jets yet

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that he expected Ukraine to conduct an offensive against Russia in spring.

"Ukraine wants to create momentum ... We expect to see them conduct an offensive sometime in the spring," he told reporters after meeting with NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

He also said that Russia is introducing a number of new troops to the battlefield but that many are ill-trained and ill-equipped.

Asked whether Ukraine's allies on Tuesday discussed the issue of sending fighter jets to help the country in its war effort, Austin said "I don't have any announcement to make today."

He also said there are currently no signs Russia is massing aircraft for a potential larger air attack. 

"We do know that Russia has a substantial number of aircraft in its inventory (...) That's why we've emphasized that we need to do everything that we can to get Ukraine as much air defense capability as we possibly can," he added.

'A year ago, Putin assumed that Ukraine was an easy target'

European countries vow more battle tanks for Ukraine

Germany and Portugal will jointly deliver Leopard 2 A6 main battle tanks to Ukraine, the German Defense Ministry announced on Twitter. 

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his Portuguese counterpart Helena Carreiras agreed on the further implementation of these plans during talks at the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.

Berlin had agreed last month to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 units to Ukraine from its military stocks, and approved the reexport of the battle tanks to Ukraine by allies. Portugal plans to send 3 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Norway's government said it would donate eight of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, fulfilling a previous commitment and joining a slew of Western countries to pledge heavier weapons to Ukraine. The Norwegian army currently has 36 Leopard 2 tanks in service.

"Norway will donate eight tanks and up to four support vehicles to Ukraine. In addition, we are earmarking funds for ammunition and spare parts," Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said, telling Norwegian media it would happen soon.

NATO defense ministers to discuss support for Ukraine 

NATO defense ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels for a two-day gathering to discuss support for Ukraine and the alliance's attempts to stock up on weapons and ammunition.  

On Tuesday afternoon, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was scheduled to join the NATO ministers. He was also set to attend a US-led meeting for the coordination of weapon deliveries to Ukraine alongside around 50 countries on Tuesday morning.

It is expected that Reznikov will call for the delivery of fighter jets after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for the supply of planes while in Brussels last week.

No decision on the fighter jets has yet been made, nor was one expected for Tuesday. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called for a prompt supply of ammunition, fuel and spare parts to Ukraine on Monday.

During the two-day meeting, the ministers are to discuss how to increase production for ammunition as continued deliveries to Ukraine have been putting a strain on the alliance's own stock. 

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced that Germany would resume the production of ammunition for Gepard battle tanks. "Contracts for the production of Gepard ammunition have been signed," Pistorius said before the NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels. 

How to better protect critical underwater infrastructure was also on the agenda following alleged acts of sabotage on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines. On Wednesday, the gathering was expected to focus on NATO's presence in eastern Europe. 

Finland and Sweden's potential accession to NATO, and Turkey's attempt to block the move, would also be part of the discussions. 

Russia dismisses Moldova's claims of coup plot

Russia's Foreign Ministry described as "completely unfounded" claims from Moldova that Moscow was contributing to a plot to violently overthrow the country's pro-European leadership. "Such claims are completely unfounded and unsubstantiated," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Moldova's President Maia Sandu accused Russia of scheming to overthrow her government on Monday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Kyiv had "intercepted the plan for the destruction of Moldova by Russian intelligence" last week.

Moscow in turn accused Kyiv of trying to sway Moldova against Russia, and accused Moldovan authorities of Russophobia.

"Unlike Western countries and Ukraine, we do not interfere in the internal affairs of Moldova and other countries of the world," the ministry said.

"Russia does not pose a threat to the security of the Republic of Moldova," the ministry continued, saying that "stable and friendly relations" with Russia could be an advantage for Moldova.

Russian advance 'likely making little progress' — UK intelligence 

Britain's defense ministry shared an intelligence update estimating that Russian Wagner Group forces made "further small gains around the northern outskirts of the contested Donbas town of Bakhmut, including into the village of Krasna Hora." 

However, the intelligence update suggested that the Russian advance had "likely made little progress." In the north, in Luhansk, there were further offensive efforts through the Russian forces, however the attacks remained "on too small a scale to achieve a significant breakthrough." 

The update went on to say that Russian forces were trying to reverse the gains made by Ukraine at the end of 2022, with a "realistic possibility"  of them advancing west to the Zherberets River. Overall, Britain's defense ministry suggested that Russian forces had not obtained "massed sufficient offensive combat power". 

South Korea grants 2 Russians right to apply for asylum

A South Korean court accepted two Russian nationals' pleas to apply for refugee status after they were stuck in the Incheon airport, close to Seoul, for months.

They will now be allowed to enter the country. However, the Incheon District Court rejected another Russian asylum seeker's plea without stating reasons for the decision.

The three men were stranded inside the Incheon International Airport since October after they fled Russia to avoid being drafted to fight in Ukraine. 

The Russians hoped to be granted asylum, but the South Korean Justice Ministry discarded their applications at the airport, causing the men to take the case to court while being stranded inside the transit areas.

"We welcome the court's decision on the two but it is regrettable that it rejected the other one's plea," said attorney Lee Jong-chan, who represents the three men. 

"They came here trying to avoid killing innocent people and getting themselves killed in a war initiated by their home country. It took them four months just to win the right to apply for refugee status," he said.

The two Russians can now settle in South Korea, but the asylum recognition process could take years. The third Russian has the right to appeal the court's decision, but is forced to remain at the airport in the meantime. 

Two other Russians stranded in the airport have been denied the right to apply for asylum. The court is set to rule on their cases later this month. 

dh, los/rs, fb (AFP, dpa, Reuters)