Transfer of Dutch F-16s to Ukraine imminent – outgoing defense minister

The new government will update MPs confidentially as the move progresses, Kajsa Ollongren has said

The caretaker Dutch government had finalized preparations for the expected transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine before leaving office, lawmakers have been told.

The Netherlands is part of a group of European countries that have pledged to donate US-made military aircraft from their fleets to Kiev. The first of 24 F-16s promised by the Dutch government will be transferred “soon,” according to a letter sent to the parliament by outgoing Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

The correspondence informed lawmakers that all necessary permits for the donation had been issued. MPs will be informed about the progress of the transfer confidentially, Ollongren said in the letter, which was published on Monday.

Her tenure as defense minister has now ended, with Prime Minister Dick Schoof and his cabinet assuming power on Tuesday. The new government was formed after months of coalition talks following an election last November.

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Kiev clashes with West over F-16 training – media

The transition is not expected to significantly affect the Netherlands’ policy on Ukraine, according to national media, since the coalition agreement between four Dutch centrist and right-wing parties includes a pledge for continued support for Kiev.

Ukraine claims that it needs F-16s to defend against Russian long-range missile barrages and to challenge Moscow’s air superiority over the front line. Moscow has described the long-expected donations as dragging Western nations further into the Ukraine conflict and raising the risk of direct confrontation with Russia.

Ukrainian officials have said F-16 missions will be conducted from airfields inside Ukraine, but reserve aircraft will be kept at bases belonging to Eastern European NATO member states. Moscow has warned that any location from which fighter jets take off to attack Russian targets will be fair game for retaliation.

The plan to use US-made aircraft against Russia is undermined by the limited Western capacity to train Ukrainians how to operate them, according to media reports. Kiev was promised as many as 60 jets, but will only have 20 pilots ready to fly them this year, Politico revealed last month.

READ MORE: WATCH Ukrainian Su-27s get wiped out at airfield by Russian strike

On Tuesday morning, the Russian Defense Ministry released footage showing a missile strike at Ukraine’s Mirgorod airfield in Poltava Region. The Russian military said the attack, which reportedly took place on Monday, destroyed five Ukrainian Su-27s fighter jets and damaged two others.

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