Belgium will not send fighter jets to Ukraine
Belgium will not send Ukraine F-16 fighter jets as they are needed for the country’s own defence, said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, who added that the country is ready to provide other forms of support to the war-torn country.
“A year ago, when [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy] appeared before us by videoconference, he told us there was a good chance we would not see him again,” the prime minister said, Belga reported. “Yet, a year later, we see that he can come here, go to Paris, go to London…”
“We are on the eve of a major Russian offensive, and it is more important than ever to be united,” he added.
On Twitter, the de Croo said that “Belgium and Europe are on the side of the Ukrainian people” and that Ukraine’s “fight for freedom and democracy is also a fight for our values”.
Following Zelenskyy’s visit to Brussels on Thursday and his first in-person speech in the European Parliament since the start of the war, De Croo reiterated his willingness to help the country.
However, De Croo explained that his country would not be able to send fighter jets to Ukraine as “[Belgium] needs its fighter jets; we cannot do without them. They are needed to defend NATO,” he told Belgian news media VRT, adding that the planes defend the Baltic states and the airspace of Belgium and the Netherlands.
He recalled that Belgium decided to provide “a very important package of military aid two weeks ago.”
Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder recently announced that the country would provide an additional €92 million military aid package to Ukraine – the “largest military aid package that our country has approved so far” as it is being combined with the previous €146 million aid package that includes “fuel and ammunition, but also anti-tank guns and machine guns.”
On Wednesday, Dedonder also announced that Belgium is considering sending Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.
“It is being studied whether and in what form Belgium can make a useful contribution to the German, Dutch and Danish initiative,” she said. In the framework of this initiative, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark announced on Tuesday that Ukraine would receive “at least 100 Leopard 1 A5 tanks […] in the coming months”.
Moreover, at the end of January, several countries – including the US and Germany – agreed to supply Ukraine with modern Western (M1A1 Abrams and Leopard 2) tanks.
Belgium also sent underwater systems to Ukraine. “Today, we are welcoming Ukrainian soldiers in Belgium as part of the #EUMAM mission. They will undergo training on the underwater systems delivered by Belgium to Ukraine. I’ve expressed to them my profound support and saluted the courage shown for almost a year now.” Dedonder said on Twitter on Thursday evening.
Zelenskyy left the Europa building around 6.30 pm, after six hours of bilateral meetings with the EU leaders on the possibility of strengthening their support for his country.
Following his meeting at the Council, he stated he had heard from several EU leaders they were ready to provide Kyiv with fighter jets to help fight against Russia without giving further details on the pledges.
The Ukrainian president then met with Belgian King Philippe in the evening during a meeting that was kept secret until the last moment. He offered the Royal Family a fragment of a Russian plane that was shot down in Ukraine and on which Ukrainian pilots wrote, “Together we win”.
(Anne-Sophie Gayet, Arthur Riffaud | EURACTIV.com)