US lawmakers pressure Biden to help transfer European planes to Ukraine

MIG-29 fighter jets fly at a military air base in Vasylkiv, Ukraine August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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WASHINGTON, March 7 (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Monday pushed President Joe Biden’s administration to facilitate the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine from Poland and other NATO and European countries of the East, after the appeal launched on Saturday by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The White House has said it has no objection to sending planes to Ukraine, but sees logistical challenges there.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez has written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asking Washington to commit to replacing all donated jets with upgraded Western aircraft. , including through concessional financing and loans as well as subsidized prizes.

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He also said NATO should redeploy fighter jets to any base where donated planes had been stationed.

Zelenskiy made a “desperate appeal to European countries to provide Russian-made aircraft” for Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders during a video call Saturday with U.S. lawmakers, attendees said. ‘call. Read more

Many eastern European air forces fly Russian-made warplanes, and moving those planes to Ukraine would mean Ukrainians could fly the planes without additional training.

“I will support the efforts of the Senate to implement measures to compensate our allies who provide their aircraft for the defense of Ukraine,” Menendez wrote.

Members of the US Senate who attended a briefing on Ukraine by State Department officials on Monday evening said they did not believe Poland had yet decided to send the plane. Some said other countries could also send planes, but declined to identify any.

A State Department spokesperson said the department was working with Poland and consulting with other NATO allies.

“It is Poland’s sovereign decision. We have in no way opposed the transfer of aircraft from Poland to Ukraine,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Administration officials said there were logistical problems both moving planes to Ukraine and providing replacement U.S. planes.

“It’s not as easy as moving airplanes,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary.

Many lawmakers — both Biden’s Democratic and Republican colleagues — have called on Washington to do everything in its power to send planes to Ukraine, including letting countries that send Russian-made MiGs “skip the line.” to quickly get American-made F-16s — made by Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) — to replace them.

Russia describes its actions as ‘a special military operation’ aimed at disarming Ukraine, countering what it sees as NATO aggression and capturing Ukrainian leaders it calls neo-Nazis .

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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Steve Holland; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Michael Perry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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