Fighter jets provided to Ukraine by NATO states will be a legitimate target for Russian troops and the dangers of a direct military clash between Russia and the alliance will only increase, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
“The fighter jets involved in the conflict on the Ukrainian army’s side will be a legitimate target for destruction wherever they may fly from,” Zakharova said addressing the expected deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
“The risks of a direct military clash between Russia and NATO only increase,” state news agency TASS quoted the spokeswoman as saying.
She claimed: “The North Atlantic alliance is being increasingly entangled in the Ukrainian conflict and, in actual fact, as we understand, is engaged in hybrid warfare against our country under the slogan of rescuing Ukraine.”
Ukraine expects the first batch of F-16 fighter jets to arrive in the country in the spring of 2024, state news agency Ukrinform cited Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat as saying.
Kyiv hopes the F-16s will shift the momentum in its favor after the progression of the counter-offensive had stagnated in recent months.
In November, Ihnat said F-16 fighter jets will significantly change the course of the war, as they will help push back Russian aircraft and cover Ukrainian ground troops from the air.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin had said the F-16s would not change the situation on the battlefield, Moscow reinforced its western borders in preparation for the F-16s.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said: “The issue of transferring F-16 tactical fighters to Kyiv has moved into practical terms. Their arrival is expected in the future. In response to these threats, we are taking appropriate measures and strengthening our western borders,” as quoted by TASS.