The morning after Ukraine president Volodymr Zelensky received a hero’s welcome in Europe, his country was hit with one of the most aggressive air campaigns in the nearly-one-year-old invasion.
Russia, showing its advantage from the skies, attacked crucial infrastructure, sending much of the country into another blackout. Zelensky, who asked Europe for fighter jets and air protection, used the attack to underscore what he is missing most in the invasion-turned-war.
The southern city of Zaporizhzhia—which took 35 incoming missiles—and the western city of Khmelnytskyi were particularly hard hit in the Friday attack. Zelensky had warned that Russia would ramp up its offensive in the coming months and that fighter jets especially would be most helpful.
Europe has so far sent tanks and munitions and air-defense systems, but has resisted sending U.S. made fighter jets. They formally asked the Netherlands for help, which was met with hesitencey. “Ukraine has indeed requested to also help with fighter jets,” Netherlands Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said. “We always take all of Ukraine’s requests very seriously. They are fighting that war, they are being attacked by Russia. But fighter jets, that is very complex.”
Despite a cozy dinner between Emmanuel Macron and Zelensky on the eve of his address to the European Parliament, France has also denied Zelensky the weapons it really wants—at least for the moment. “There is no way that fighter planes can be delivered in the next few weeks, as time is needed for training, delivery, and training for planes unfamiliar to Ukrainian pilots,” Macron said. “So I am not ruling it out.”
Reluctance to give Ukraine stronger airpower and even longer range missiles is hinged on fears that Ukraine could then attack Russia inside its own territory—which could drastically change the face of the year-old conflict.
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