Russia’s deputy foreign minister has warned Western countries of “enormous risks” if Ukraine is provided with F-16 fighter jets, Russian state media TASS reported Saturday.
The comments come after US President Joe Biden gave his backing for Ukrainian pilots to be trained to fly F-16s, reversing his previous position.
F-16s are considered high performance weapon systems with a range of 500 miles (860 kilometers), and would be an upgrade to the aircraft currently in Ukraine’s fleet.
Responding to the move, Alexander Grushko said: “We see that the Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario.
“It involves enormous risks for themselves. In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the set goals.”
Earlier this week, the UK and the Netherlands were reportedly building an “international coalition” to help Ukraine procure F-16 fighter jets.
A handful of European countries have a supply of US-made F-16s, including the Netherlands, which has signaled a willingness to export some of them to Ukraine. But the US would have to approve that third-party transfer because of the jets’ sensitive US technology.
Since Russia’s invasion started, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has struggled to get F-16s to aid his fight, over fears they could be used on Russian soil, potentially triggering an escalation between NATO and Russia.
After saying Kyiv did not need the fighter jets earlier this year, US President Joe Biden reversed his objections by signaling to European allies that they would allow F-16 exports to Ukraine.
Biden’s top national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters Saturday in Japan Biden believes in equipping the country for a long-term fight against Russia.
In March, the US hosted two Ukrainian pilots at a military base in Tucson, Arizona, to evaluate their skills using flight simulators and assess how long it would take them to learn to fly various US military aircraft, including F-16s.
CNN’s Lauren Kent, Julia Kesaieva and Brad Lendon contributed to this report.