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Ukraine war: Vladimir Putin issues stark warning to Nato over F-16s

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NEW DELHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a stark warning regarding the potential deployment of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, saying that Russia would target and destroy these jets just as it has with other Western-supplied military equipment. This declaration comes amidst discussions among several Nato countries about donating F-16s to Kiev and training Ukrainian pilots, although no deliveries have occurred yet.
Putin, during his visit to the Torzhok Air Base in the Tver Region, asserted the potential introduction of F-16 jets into the conflict would not alter the battlefield dynamics. “If they deliver the F-16s, I think you know better than others that this will not change the situation on the battlefield,” he remarked. “And we will destroy these planes just as we have destroyed tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment, including multiple launch rocket systems.”
His comments underscore Russia’s commitment to countering what it views as unacceptable escalations in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
F-16s as legitimate targets
The Russian leader further emphasized that if Ukrainian pilots were to operate these jets from bases in third countries, those F-16s would become legitimate targets for Russian forces. “Of course, if they are used from airfields of third countries, they become a legitimate target for us, wherever they are located,” Putin elaborated, highlighting the serious implications of deploying these aircraft in or near the conflict zone.
Putin also noted the capability of the F-16, a jet first designed in the 1970s, to carry nuclear weapons, indicating that Russia would take this into account in its military strategy.
Challenges for Ukraine’s Air Force
The discussion of F-16s comes as Ukraine’s air force has suffered significant losses over the past two years, including Soviet-era jets that were donated by several Nato members. With the Ukrainian government seeking the advanced F-16 jets as replacements, there’s speculation about the practicality of their deployment given the need for pristine runways, which are scarce in Ukraine. This has led to conjecture that Ukrainian-operated F-16s might instead be stationed in neighboring Nato countries.
Putin’s warnings reflect the complexities and heightened tensions surrounding military support for Ukraine, with both strategic and political implications for the involved parties.

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