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Pressure on the Western unit because of the provision of fighter aircraft to Ukraine

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The unity of Ukraine’s western allies has come under pressure over the possibility of providing Kyiv with fighter jets to help fend off a Russian invasion, amid fears of an escalation of the nearly year-old conflict.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksey Reznikov is due in Paris on Tuesday, when the possible delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine is expected to be on the agenda of the official talks.

Kyiv officials have repeatedly urged allies to send in planes, saying they are needed to challenge Russia’s air supremacy and to ensure the success of future tank-led counter-offensives recently promised by Western nations.

It is believed that both Ukraine and Russia are building up their arsenals for an expected attack in the coming months. The war largely stalemated on the battlefield during the winter season.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France does not rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but he set multiple conditions before taking such an important step.

He said the conditions included not escalating tensions or using planes to “touch Russian territory” and not weakening “the capabilities of the French army”.

He also said Ukraine would also have to formally order the planes, which could happen. Reznikov is sitting down for talks in Paris.

After months of haggling, last week the Ukrainian authorities persuaded Western allies to send tanks. This decision came despite the hesitation and caution of some NATO members, including the United States and Germany.

Asked by a reporter on Monday if his administration was considering sending Ukrainian F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, US President Joe Biden replied, “No.”

Biden’s deputy national security adviser, John Fenner, said in an interview with MSNBC last week that the United States would discuss fighter jets “very cautiously” with Ukraine and its allies.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared to dismiss the prospect of introducing fighter jets, suggesting on Sunday that the reason for the whole discussion could be due to “domestic political motives” in some countries.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday that there are no “taboos” in efforts to help Ukraine. But he added that sending planes “would be a very big next step”.

As in previous discussions about how to help Ukraine, Poland is a leading advocate in the EU for providing military assistance. Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern side feel particularly threatened by Russia.

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