Day 453: “wings of freedom” — Ukraine awaits F-16 fighter jets

What is known about a fighter jet coalition for Ukraine. What’s happening in Russia’s Belgorod region.

What is known about jet coalition for Ukraine

The actual start of a “fighter jet coalition” to supply Ukraine with modern planes is among the most talked-about and tangible results of the G7 summit in Japan. The U.S. and European allies vowed to join the coalition.

Less than four months elapsed between when President Biden ruled out sending the F-16 to Ukraine in late January and his green light for the U.S. to join a coalition of fighter jets, announced at the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

“I believe that the wings of our common freedom will be no doubt the strongest in the world!” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said, thanking Biden for his leadership. “When our pilots know the F-16 and when these aircraft appear in our skies, it will matter not only for Ukraine. This will be a historic moment for the entire security architecture in Europe and the world,” Zelenskyi said at the summit.

Ukraine received pledges from the UK, the U.S., the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark to help build a jet coalition and provide training.

The United States confirmed that “together with our allies and partners, [it] is going to begin training Ukrainian pilots in fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s”. The fourth generation category also includes Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon and France’s Mirage 2000.

In the meantime, the pilots will undergo training. “This summer we will commence an elementary flying phase for cohorts of Ukrainian pilots to learn basic training,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, as he welcomed Zelenskyi in the UK last week. “The training of the pilots has already started,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, May 22.

What’s happening in Russia’s Belgorod region

The Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion, groups fighting alongside the Ukrainian troops, claimed credit for crossing into Russia on Monday. A series of videos shows them standing in front of town signs in Russian regions bordering Ukraine. 

The Russian Volunteer Corps reportedly reached Bezlyudivka in Russia’s Belgorod region, Churovichi in Bryansk region, and Lyubimovka in Kursk region. 

The Freedom of Russia Legion claimed the liberation of the village Gora-Podol and before beginning to Grayvoron. The situation was “complicated”, the legion’s press service told Suspilne.

“The Liberty of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps are creating a demilitarized zone on the border with the Russian Federation, from where they will not be able to fire at Ukraine,” the press service was quoted as saying.

“In the future, we are moving towards the liberation of all of Russia from Putin’s dictatorship and the end of the criminal war”.

“Russian law enforcement tries to send artillery fire at us and conduct air strikes. The situation is complicated, but we are holding out and advancing,” the group said. 

Ukraine says it is closely watching what’s happening in Russia’s Belgorod region, but denies involvement. “The only driving political force in a totalitarian country of tightened screws is always an armed guerrilla movement. #Ukraine is watching the events in the #Belgorod region of #Russia with interest and studying the situation, but it has nothing to do with it,” adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. “As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens,” he added.

According to Ukraine’s military intelligence, Russia was removing nuclear munitions from a facility in Belgorod region. “There are additional reports of evacuation measures. The Russians are evacuating Belgorod-22, a nuclear munitions storage from an area near Grayvoron,” a representative of the Main Intelligence Department of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Andriy Yusov said on television.

Yusov reiterated that Ukraine has nothing to do with what’s happening in Belgorod region, calling Russian anti-Putin forces responsible for the fight.

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