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The Dutch Prime Minister said that the Netherlands and Denmark will donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

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EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) — The Netherlands and Denmark announced Sunday that they will provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, in a long-awaited announcement that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described as an important impetus for his country’s forces engaged in a difficult counterattack against him. Russia.

The timetable depends on how well Ukrainian crews and infrastructure are prepared for the powerful U.S.-made aircraft, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Zelensky while visiting a Dutch air base.

Ukraine has long appealed to the advanced fighter to give it a combat advantage. Recently launched long awaited counterattack against the Kremlin’s forces without air cover, and put its forces at the mercy of Russian aviation and artillery.

Zelensky welcomed the “historic” announcement and praised Rutte for making the Netherlands the first country to deliver the planes. The announcement came minutes after the two leaders examined two gray F-16s parked in a hangar at the Dutch base in the southern city of Eindhoven.

“I feel proud that Denmark, along with the Netherlands, will donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine’s struggle for freedom against Russia and its senseless aggression. Denmark’s support for Ukraine is unwavering, and with its donation of the F-16s, Denmark’s Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann Jensen said in a statement. Denmark is now leading the way.

Ukraine will get 42 of the planes, Zelensky said in Ukraine on his Telegram channel, but the Netherlands and Denmark, in a joint statement announcing the deliveries, did not specify the numbers.

The Netherlands has 42 aircraft, Rutte said, but said some of them will be needed for training purposes.

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It also remained unclear when they would take to the skies over the Zelensky nation, but Rutte said he hoped it would be soon.

F-16s will now not immediately help the war effort. In any case, the Dutch leader said, it is a long-term commitment from the Netherlands. We want them to be active and operational as quickly as possible. … Not for the next month, that’s impossible, but hopefully soon after that.”

Zelensky described the announcement as a strong message to his forces.

The F16 will certainly give new energy, confidence and motivation to fighters and civilians. I am sure that it will bring new results for Ukraine and the whole of Europe.

The Dutch and Danish governments are also involved in a consortium that is training Ukrainian pilots to fly advanced combat aircraft.

Zelensky refused to disclose the number of Ukrainian pilots who will undergo training in Denmark and later in Romania, citing security reasons. However, Denmark announced Friday that training begins this month.

Officials said earlier that Ukrainian pilots would be needed Six to eight months of training.

The Netherlands and Denmark said on Friday that the United States had allowed them to deliver American-made F-16s to Ukraine. Washington’s approval was seen as a major boost for Kiev, though the fighter jets would not have an effect anytime soon over the course of about 18 months. war.

Washington says the F-16s – like the United States developed Abrams tanks – it will be decisive in the long run Kyiv faces Russia.

Ukraine relies on older aircraft, such as the Russian-made MiG29 and Sukhoi jets. The F-16 has newer technology and targeting capabilities. It is also more diverse, Experts say.

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In a video message earlier Sunday, Zelensky vowed to respond firmly to a Russian missile attack the day before in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv. As a result, seven people were killed and more than 100 others were injured.

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Associated Press writer Carl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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