“The fighter jets involved in the conflict on the Ukrainian army’s side will be a legitimate target for destruction wherever they may fly from,” the Russian diplomat said on Wednesday, commenting on the prospects of the deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
“The risks of a direct military clash between Russia and NATO only increase,” she stressed.
NATO member states have long been talking about the deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine and “have established a whole separate coalition of countries that will hand over the warplanes to the Kiev regime and train Ukrainian pilots”, Zakharova added.
“Considering that a considerable part of the Ukrainian aerodrome infrastructure has been destroyed, it is not ruled out that these American fighters will be based outside the country, namely, in Poland, Slovakia and Romania,” the Russian diplomat continued.
“Therefore, the North Atlantic alliance is being increasingly entangled in the Ukrainian conflict and, in actual fact, as we understand, is engaged in hybrid warfare against our country under the slogan of rescuing Ukraine,” Zakharova stressed.
Ukraine has long requested advanced jets from the West, arguing that they would be crucial in countering Russian air superiority. In May, after months of hesitation, the UK and the Netherlands announced “an international coalition” to help Kiev procure F-16s.
In August, the US cleared the way for Denmark and the Netherlands to re-export the fighters to Kiev – which vowed to send up to 61 jets – while also allowing European countries to train Ukrainian pilots. In October, Belgium also said it would provide Ukraine with an undisclosed number of US-made fighters starting in 2025.
The US itself has also joined the effort to train a “small number” of Ukrainian pilots on its soil, with about 200 additional personnel scheduled to receive maintenance training.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba stated that all political decisions regarding the F-16 deliveries had already been taken and that the planes would arrive in the country once all technical issues had been resolved.
Russia has repeatedly warned the West against arms deliveries to Kiev, noting that they would only prolong the conflict, but would not change its outcome. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also said that Moscow would deem the shipments of F-16 a “nuclear threat,” given that some modifications could carry atomic weapons.