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F-16 supplies to Kiev would signal NATO ‘ready for anything’ – Lavrov

Moscow will regard the delivery of the warplanes as a nuclear threat, the Russian foreign minister has said

Moscow will perceive deliveries of the US-designed F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as a “deliberate” signal from NATO in the nuclear sphere, indicating that the military bloc is “ready for anything,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

According to Lavrov, F-16 fighter jets have long been used as part of NATO’s joint nuclear missions. Russia has warned repeatedly that it would regard the jets sent to Ukraine as a nuclear threat because of their capacity to carry atomic weapons.

The fourth-generation fighter planes have been at the forefront of Kiev’s demands for military aid from the West in an effort to challenge Russia’s airpower advantage.

In an interview with Rossiya Segodna published on Thursday, Lavrov said that NATO was trying to signal it is “literally ready for anything” in Ukraine.

“We cannot help but consider the supply of these systems to the Kiev regime as a deliberate signaling action by NATO in the nuclear sphere,” he explained.

Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway have all pledged to supply Ukraine with US-made F-16 fighters, although none have so far been delivered. However, earlier in May, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced that the first planes would arrive in Ukraine “in the coming month.”

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FILE PHOTO: A Belgian F-16 fighter jet takes part in a NATO nuclear drill.
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Ukrainian pilots are currently training on F-16s in Romania, where a NATO-backed flight school for this purpose was opened late last year.

Lavrov emphasized his view that furnishing Kiev with increasingly destructive weapons indicated the West’s reluctance to end the Ukraine conflict.

The foreign minister stated that F-16s would not change the situation on the battlefield, as they would be destroyed like other types of weapons supplied by NATO countries to Ukraine. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the jets would be targeted by Russia at airfields in NATO countries if they operate from there.

Lavrov also cautioned the West against nuclear escalation, which could result in “catastrophic consequences,” adding that he hopes Russia’s recent nuclear exercise conducted jointly with its ally Belarus will “bring some sense” to NATO.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a drill earlier this month to test Russia’s ability to use non-strategic nuclear weapons. The move was described as a reaction to hostile statements by the West.

May 30, 2024 at 03:02PM
RT

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