US, Poland exploring deal to supply planes to Ukraine
March 06 2022 11:39 AM
An Aero L-39C Albatros aircraft from Ukraine Air Force flies over Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 4.
An Aero L-39C Albatros aircraft from Ukraine Air Force flies over Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 4. AFP


Washington is working on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with Soviet-era warplanes to bolster Kyiv's defenses against the Russian invasion, according to US media.
Multiple news outlets reported Saturday that US officials told them of the possible deal, in which Poland would send Soviet-era aircraft to Ukraine in return for American F-16 fighter jets.
Since Russia invaded 10 days ago, the economic and humanitarian toll of the war has spiraled and officials have reported hundreds of civilians killed.
Weapons, ammunition and funds have poured into Ukraine from Western allies.
"We are working with the Poles on this issue and consulting with the rest of our NATO allies," a White House official was quoted as saying in reports by the Wall Street Journal and NBC.
Kyiv has urged the West to boost military assistance to the besieged country, including warplanes, with President Volodymyr Zelensky pleading for Eastern European neighbors to provide Russian-made planes that his pilots are trained to fly.
The Ukrainian leader had addressed US lawmakers by video call Saturday, pleading for further funding and an embargo on Russian oil imports.
The Wall Street Journal's report cited two people on the call, who said Zelensky requested fighter jets after Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell asked the Ukrainian president what he needed most.
"The urgency of the United States and its allies to support freedom for the people of Ukraine has never been greater," Senator Rob Portman said after he and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin spoke with Zelensky.
"We must eliminate every obstacle to providing every measure of support to Ukraine to include finding a way for the United States to compensate our Eastern European partners who wish to donate their Soviet-style aircraft to Ukraine. There is no time to lose," Portman said in a statement.
US legislators promised an additional $10 billion aid package, but the White House has so far ruled out an oil ban, fearing it would ratchet up prices and hurt American consumers already stung by record inflation.
The Journal said US officials mentioned a number of challenging practical questions, including getting the planes to Ukraine, and that the deal would require White House approval and congressional action.
Washington last week authorized $350 million of military equipment for Kyiv -- the largest such package in US history.

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