Belgium commits to deliver 30 F-16 jets to Ukraine by 2028


Belgium on Tuesday committed to delivering 30 F-16 fighter jets by 2028 to help Kiev battle Russia’s invasion, at the start of a visit by Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

The pledge was made as part of a bilateral security and long-term support accord signed by Zelensky and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, the latest in a string of similar Ukrainian accords with Western allies.

“For the first time, such an agreement specifies the exact number of F-16 fighter jets — 30 — that will be delivered to Ukraine until 2028,” Zelensky wrote on X.

Zelensky said the first aircraft would be “arriving already this year” — though Belgium’s Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib was more cautious, saying earlier that “we hope deliveries will start at the end of this year”.

The bilateral security agreement, Zelensky said, “includes at least 977 million euros in Belgian military aid to Ukraine this year,” in addition to a commitment of support over the next 10 years.

Zelensky also accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of trying to derail a Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland set for next month.

“Putin is very scared of the peace summit,” Zelensky said.

“He has been trying to thwart this summit and continues to do so.”

The Ukrainian leader jetted into Brussels from Spain late on Monday as part of a whistlestop tour to several European countries in a bid to rally support for Kiev.

He was to hold a press conference with De Croo and visit a military airbase in the Belgian capital, where he will meet instructors helping to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.

Belgium had previously pledged to supply F-16 aircraft to Kiev as part of a broader initiative by European allies.

Overall, Brussels says it has committed 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to providing military support for Ukraine since Russia’s 2022 invasion.

Spain, a day earlier, pledged one billion euros in military aid as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Zelensky signed their own security deal in Madrid.

Zelensky’s latest tour comes as Ukraine is struggling to hold back a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region, where Moscow recently has made its largest territorial gains in 18 months.

Following his trip to Belgium, Zelensky is set to head to Portugal later on Tuesday.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday urged countries to balance fear of escalation against Ukraine’s need to defend itself, saying Kiev had the right to use Western arms to strike in Russia.

“According with the law of war, it is perfectly possible and there is no contradiction,” he said.

With the Russian assault now in its third year, Ukraine has been pleading for more weapons for its outgunned and outnumbered troops, notably seeking help to address its lack of air defense systems.

The Ukrainian leader is also trying to whip up support for a peace conference due to be held in Switzerland next month, as Kiev has rejected any push to invite Russia.__Daily Hurriyet