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Lawmakers pressure Biden over European aircraft transfers to Ukraine

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Members of the US Congress pushed President Joe Biden's administration on Monday to facilitate the immediate transfer of fighter aircraft to Ukraine from NATO and Eastern European countries, after a plea on Saturday from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calling for Washington to commit to replace any donated jets with upgraded Western aircraft, including through concessionary financing and loans as well as subsidized pricing.

Zelenskyy made a “desperate plea for European countries to provide Russian-made planes” for Ukraine's fight against Russian invaders during a video call Saturday with US lawmakers, participants in the call said.

Many air forces in Eastern Europe fly Russian-made warplanes. The transfer of such aircraft to Ukraine would mean that Ukrainian pilots fly the plane without needing additional training.

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“I will support efforts in the Senate to implement measures to compensate our allies that provide their aircraft for Ukraine's defense,” Menendez said in the letter.

State and Defense Department spokespersons did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Among other lawmakers making similar requests were Representatives Tim Ryan and Marcy Kaptur, both Democrats. And on Sunday, Republican Senator Rob Portman spoke at a rally in support of Ukraine outside the White House, where he called on the Biden administration to do more to support Ukraine, including helping European countries send fighter jets.

Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Sunday during a visit to the Polish border that he also encouraged the Biden administration to facilitate the aircraft transfers.

Russia describes its actions as “a special military operation” whose aim is to disarm Ukraine, counter what it views as NATO aggression and capture Ukrainian leaders it calls neo-Nazis.

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