The Netherlands and Denmark will provide Ukraine with much sought-after F-16 fighter jets in an agreement hailed by President Volodymyr Zelensky as “historic.”
Kyiv has urgently been calling on its Western allies to provide it with the US-made aircraft, as its slow-moving counteroffensive is hampered by Russian air superiority.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Zelensky at Eindhoven airport on Sunday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country would “commit to delivering F-16 aircraft to Ukraine” once “the conditions for such a transfer have been met.”
Zelensky hailed the agreement as “historic” and “the most important” one yet. “The Netherlands became the first country to agree to provide Ukraine with F-16s after training. I am very grateful,” he added.
Even with the news it will take months until Ukraine will be able to use the jets.
On Monday, Zelensky said on X, the social network previously known as Twitter, that Ukraine would receive 42 F-16 from the Netherlands and 19 from Denmark.
However, the Dutch government has not yet publicly confirmed the number of jets it would provide. Rutte said his country, which is currently in the process of upgrading to the newer F-35 fighter jets, had 42 F-16s in its arsenal.
“At this moment, the Netherlands still owns 42 F-16s. Out of these 42, we need planes to help training in Denmark and later on in Romania,” Rutte said. He added that the Netherlands would look into whether all of the remaining planes could be supplied but stated that he could not yet give a definitive number.
The Netherlands, a NATO member, has been a strong ally to Ukraine since well before Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022.
In 2014, 196 Dutch citizens were killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukrainian territory held by pro-Russian separatists. Dutch investigators said in February there were “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the decision to provide separatists with the missile system that downed the plane.
The Dutch government has promised €2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) in support to Ukraine this year.
The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a statement published Sunday it had agreed to provide F-16s. Conditions for the transfer include training Ukrainian personnel, setting up infrastructure and logistics, and receiving the necessary authorization, it said.
Zelensky traveled on to Denmark after visiting the Netherlands where he met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
“Today we announce that we will provide 19 F-16 jets to Ukraine, we believe Danish fighter jets will help protect your skies,” Frederiksen said.
“The aim of this delivery is to protect Ukraine. We plan to provide the jets closer to the new year, about six of them, then eight in the next year and then another five.”
The meetings come after a US official on Friday said the US had committed to approving the transfer of F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine as soon as training is complete.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Saturday that Ukrainian pilots had begun training.
F-16s are single-engine, multirole jet aircraft, meaning they can be used in air-to-air or ground-attack missions.