Russia has warned the UK and the rest of the West that they are “playing with fire” with the supply of fighter jets to Ukraine. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov described the move, initiated by Rishi Sunak earlier this month and catalysed by the US the following week, as an “unacceptable escalation” and claimed Ukraine’s supporters were trying to “decolonise” Russia.
It comes hours before Russia launched another wave of attacks on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in the early hours of Monday, using a combination of drones and cruise missiles.
Speaking to Russian state media, Lavrov said: “Certainly, this is an unacceptable escalation. I hope there are sensible people in the West who understand that.”
He added: “Western political analysts have been discussing how to decolonize Russia. They mean to divide our country.
“I hope sensible people will abandon their reckless support for the neo-Nazi regime which was created by the West itself.”
He said that the F-16 training programme was “without a doubt, playing with fire” and denounced it as an attempt “to weaken Russia” by “Washington, London and their satellites in the EU”.
On May 21, US President Joe Biden said at a news conference following the G7 summit in Hiroshima that the West will start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and other fourth-generation Western combat aircraft.
F-16s have been at the top of Ukraine’s weapons wishlist since it was handed main battle tanks from the likes of the US, United Kingdom and Germany.
Kyiv, having already bolstered its air defences with a host of Western-supplied anti-aircraft systems, now believes the jets could be vital in the war and essential to the country’s long-term security.
Meanwhile, more than 40 air targets were brought down overnight in what was the 15th nighttime attack on the capital in May, head of the Kyiv Military Administration Serhii Popko said in a Telegram update.
Falling debris broke through the roof of a residential building in the Podlisk district but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
“One more difficult night for the capital,” said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Often the explosions are the sounds of Ukraine’s air defence systems successfully targeting the deadly cocktail of missiles and drones Russia has sent into Ukraine.
On May 16, Russia launched an exceptionally intense bombardment, sending 18 missiles Ukraine’s way, 14 of which targeted Kyiv according to Ukraine’s air force spokesman. Ukraine said it shot down six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles that night, a capability it did not have last year.
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On Saturday night, local officials in Kyiv said that Ukraine’s capital was subjected to the largest drone attack since the start of Russia’s war. At least one person was killed. It came on the eve of Kyiv Day, which marks the anniversary of the city’s founding.
The increasingly regular series of strikes are part of a new Russian air campaign targeting Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities, experts and Ukrainian officials said.
The uptick was noticed after April 19, right after Ukraine announced it had received American-made Patriot missiles, a long-sought new shield against Russian airstrikes.
Observers said the renewed intensity of Russian attacks appears to be aiming to overwhelm and target these new systems.
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