Day 387 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Slovakia gives 13 MiG-29 Fghters to Kyiv
Day 387 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Slovakia gives 13 MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine
- After denying it shot down the drone, Moscow rewarded the pilots of the two Su-27s
- Belgium and Latvia promise additional aid to Ukraine, and Poland - fighter jets
- Poland sends 4 MiG-29s to Ukraine
- Olaf Scholz: We must prepare for a long war in Ukraine
- The Pentagon: Russia is trying to retrieve the remains of the MQ-9 drone
- Kuleba: The countries that neglected Ukraine and treated us badly will pay the price after the war
- ISW: PMC Wagner's Bakhmut offensive nears its climax
- "Politico": China supplies arms to Russia
Slovakia gives 13 MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine
Slovakia's government said today it has decided to hand over all 13 of its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets and part of its air defense systems to Ukraine and has a 0 million offer to find replacements for them, reported "Dennikn".
The announcement comes a day after Poland announced it was giving Ukraine its fighter jets of the same model and replacing them gradually with South Korean and American ones.
Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger stated at a briefing that the decision was taken in full compliance with the country's constitution and that President Zuzana Caputova was informed about it.
"We are providing warplanes to Ukraine so it can defend itself," Heger said, rejecting accusations by his predecessor Robert Fico, now leader of the left-wing opposition, that the government was dragging Slovakia into war by donating warplanes. "Fighters have already been donated by our allies as well," Heger said.
"The donation of MiG-29s will in no way threaten our defense because the Slovak army would not use them at all," Chief of the General Staff Daniel Zmeko said at the briefing.
"The MiG-29 fighters and the KUB air defense system, which we are also donating, are no longer usable for us," Heger added.
Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said that in exchange for the 13 MiG-29 fighter jets and parts of the KUB air defense system, Slovakia has an offer on the table for military equipment worth approximately 900 million euros. He did not give details of what kind of combat equipment it was.
Slovakia was the first country on NATO's eastern flank to donate its Soviet-era S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, which Bulgaria flatly refused to provide despite requests from Kyiv and NATO allies.
In return, the US, Germany and the Netherlands deployed their Patriot missile systems on Slovakian territory to replace the donated ones while Bratislava rearmed.
The United States announced earlier this year that it had earmarked 2 million in grants for regional allies donating their Soviet-style military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine. The European Union increased this week its extrabudgetary fund with the same purpose to nearly 8 billion euros.
Earlier, the US military noted that the provision of old Soviet warplanes to Ukraine was a temporary measure to cover its most urgent needs. They noted that Kyiv will not be able to maintain this equipment in the future, because this can be done mainly by its adversary in the war, Russia, and the medium and long-term perspective is that it will receive Western combat aircraft. Pilot training for them and logistical preparations require years, and a number of NATO governments fear that providing such weapons to Ukraine could lead to an escalation of the conflict that they do not want.
After denying it shot down the drone, Moscow rewarded the pilots of the two Su-27s
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday awarded the pilots of the two Su-27 fighter jets that intercepted a US drone over the Black Sea and caused it to crash, Reuters reported.
The drone crashed in international waters near Crimea on Tuesday after encountering Russian jets, in the first known direct military encounter between Russia and the United States since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago.
In announcing the awards, the ministry reiterated Russia's version of events - disputed by Washington - that Russian planes did not make physical contact with the drone.
"As a result of a sharp maneuver at around 9:30 a.m. (Moscow time, 8:30 a.m. Bulgarian time), the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle entered an uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude and collided with the water surface," the statement said.
The military added that the drone was flying with its transponders off and violating airspace restrictions that Russia has made public in connection with what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
The US Air Force says Russian fighter jets approached an MQ-9 Reaper during a reconnaissance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace. A video released by the military showed the jets closing in on the drone and dousing it with fuel in a 30-40 minute standoff before one of the fighter jets clipped the drone's fin, causing it to crash into the sea.
A 40-second edited video released by the Pentagon on Thursday shows a Russian fighter jet approaching a US military drone in mid-air, dumping fuel near it. A subsequently damaged fin is also shown. A senior US general said the incident demonstrated Moscow's increasingly aggressive behavior.
Belgium and Latvia promise additional aid to Ukraine, and Poland - fighter jets
Belgium and Latvia announced additional military aid to Ukraine. Earlier, Poland became the first country to announce that it would send fighter jets to Kyiv.
Ukraine has always been Europe and Russian bombs will not change the objective reality, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after a meeting in Kyiv with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins. Latvia announced another 70 million euros in aid to Ukraine, and so the total assistance from Riga to Kyiv is now around 300 million euros. UNIAN Agency informs about another aid from Belgium - 240 military trucks. Earlier, Poland announced that it would send a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, with four to be delivered in the coming days. Thus, Poland will become the first NATO country to fulfill the Ukrainian government's requests for combat aircraft
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that in its foreign policy, Ukraine works in two directions - European and Euro-Atlantic. He thanked all his compatriots who are fighting at the front and added that retribution for Russia is inevitable:
"A day will come and a tribunal will be established to restore justice for our people. It will punish this aggressor as the aggressors of the past were punished."
Berlin will support Kyiv as long as necessary with money and weapons, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, adding that he did not expect the war in Ukraine to end soon. According to Scholz, it is vital that China does not supply Russia with weapons.
The Pentagon believes that so far China has not provided Russia with weapons to be used in the fighting in Ukraine, spokesman General Patrick Ryder said. He also commented on the issue of the American drone that crashed after being intercepted by a Russian fighter over the Black Sea. According to Washington, Russian ships are in the area and are trying to reach the remains of the drone, but it is highly unlikely that they will be able to retrieve anything useful.
Poland sends 4 MiG-29s to Ukraine
Poland will supply Ukraine with an initial batch of 4 MiG-29 fighter jets, the country's president Andrzej Duda said, AFP reported.
"In the coming days, for the first time, if I remember correctly, we will hand over 4 fully operational planes to Ukraine. The rest are being prepared," Duda told reporters.
This makes Poland the first NATO member country to fulfill the Ukrainian government's increasingly pressing requests for military aircraft.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has repeatedly stated that his country needs aircraft to be able to effectively repel the Russian invasion.
Both Britain and the US have ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Western countries remain reluctant to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, despite the obvious advantage they would bring, because of the persistent fear that it would accelerate the expansion of the conflict beyond Ukraine's borders.
President Duda did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia said it would send its decommissioned MiGs to Ukraine.
Poland is among the most active allies pushing for more weapons to Ukraine.
To begin with, it will hand over four older Soviet-era MiG-29s. The rest need to be checked and will be delivered later.
Earlier, President Duda told Sky News that Ukraine would need "modern fighter jets in the future" to repel Russian aggression.
But he said this could not happen immediately, as Ukrainian pilots needed training.
Olaf Scholz: We must prepare for a long war in Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz does not expect the war in Ukraine to end soon, he told business daily Handelsblatt on Thursday, confirming that Berlin will support Kyiv as long as necessary with money and weapons.
"We must be prepared for a protracted war, even if an early end would be desirable," Scholz said, adding that it remained absolutely vital that China not supply Russia with weapons.
Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States rejected offers to resolve the crisis made by China.
According to him, the cease-fire proposal contained in it, "although it sounds reasonable enough, now essentially ratifies Russia's conquests, it will actually recognize Russia's (territorial) acquisitions."
According to him, "Russia could actually take advantage of this ceasefire to further strengthen its position in Ukraine, to restore its forces, ... to retrain them, in order to then resume attacks."
"Honestly, this is not a step that we believe is a step towards establishing lasting peace. If peace is to be lasting, if it is to be a just peace, to be sustainable, it cannot be one-sided and it must necessarily include the Ukrainian point of view." the White House spokesman said.
In late February, Beijing announced a 12-point peace plan that calls for an end to hostilities and the start of peace talks, as well as the immediate lifting of sanctions on Russia.
The Pentagon: Russia is trying to retrieve the remains of the MQ-9 drone
The US has reason to believe that Russia is trying to retrieve the remains of the MQ-9 drone from the waters of the Black Sea.
The drone crashed on Tuesday after two Russian Su-27 fighter jets attempted to intercept it. Washington's and Moscow's versions of the incident differ - according to the Americans, there was contact between the aircraft, according to the Russians, there was no such contact.
The Pentagon released video of the incident, which shows Russian planes trying to sabotage the flight of the American drone by dropping fuel in its path. According to American sources, Russian ships were spotted in the area of the fall, about 120 km from the Crimean Peninsula. The fear is that if it finds the remains, Moscow will gain access to secret US military technology.
"We have indications that Russia may be trying to retrieve the wreckage from the drone. However, our assessment is that this is very unlikely to happen due to several factors. First, I won't go into details, but we have taken steps to preserve the information from the machine, and secondly, the drone crashed in a place where the water is very deep," Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said.
Kuleba: The countries that neglected Ukraine and treated us badly will pay the price after the war
The countries that turned their backs on us will bear their responsibility after the end of the war. The choices each country made after the full-scale Russian invasion will be taken into account in building future relations. The countries that do not support us now - those that have misbehaved in the course of this war and neglected Ukraine - will pay the price in the future.
This was stated in an interview with the BBC by the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba. He warned that a delay in Western arms deliveries could cost Ukrainians their lives. "If a delivery is delayed by a day, it means someone will die on the front line," he said.
Kuleba said that if anyone in the world thinks that the way a country treated Ukraine at the darkest moment in its history - will not be taken into account in building future relations - then they simply do not know how diplomacy works . According to him, the war is a time of choices and every choice has been accounted for.
"The Western allies did not provide quick enough military support to Ukraine because they were not ready for a conflict on the scale of the First World War. And what we needed were artillery shells. We want partners to act faster. And if a delivery delayed by a day, it means someone will die on the front lines. It means someone who could be still alive will die," he stated.
Kuleba explained that nowhere was the demand for ammunition greater than in the eastern city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces have been resisting repeated Russian attempts to take the city for more than seven months. According to him, if Bakhmut falls, other Ukrainian cities will follow. The foreign minister of Ukraine is of the opinion that there are no signs that Russia is ready to negotiate an end to the fighting:
"Every war ends at the negotiating table. But my goal as foreign minister is to make sure that Ukraine gets to the negotiating table after a decisive success on the battlefield."
And that includes building the strongest possible coalition of support - an alliance that he says does not include the Pope. Dmytro Kuleba said it was not his job, but God's, to judge the Holy Father, but added: "We deeply regret that the Pope has not found an opportunity to visit Ukraine since the beginning of the war." When asked if support for Ukraine will decrease after next year's presidential elections:
"I think we can survive any Republican vote. The biggest luxury Ukraine enjoys in the US is bipartisan support from both the Democratic and Republican camps."
"Historically Ukraine has been unfairly underrated and I'm sorry it took bloodshed and a devastating war for the world to realize how cool we are. And we will always be cool. But it just took you too long to realize that." Dmytro Kuleba also said.
ISW: PMC Wagner's Bakhmut offensive nears its climax
Russian forces are not making much progress at Bakhmut, and Wagner's PMC offensive is probably nearing its climax. This is stated in the new report on the course of military actions in Ukraine by the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Analysts believe that Russian forces are currently making only minor tactical gains in Bakhmut.
The Institute also quotes the words of Serhiy Cherevaty, the spokesman of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, that in the last 24 hours the Russian military has made 42 attempted attacks in the Bakhmut region.
"The relatively low pace of Russian attacks in and around Bakhmut on March 16, together with relatively few Russian claims of advancing or capturing territory in the area, confirms ISW's March 15 assessment that PMC Wagner's offensive in Bakhmut is likely nearing a climax", write the institute's experts.
The Russian Federation is said to be continuing a limited offensive in the western part of Donetsk Oblast, near the town of Vuhledar, located 30 km from Donetsk. However, according to analysts, a new major offensive in this area is unlikely in the near future.
"The ISW has previously noted the extremely poor condition of Russian forces operating near Vuhledar, and it is highly unlikely that the heavily damaged Marines and units of the Eastern Military District now in the western part of Donetsk Oblast will be able to resume the offensive operations here in the near future," the Institute for the Study of War wrote.
"Politico": China supplies arms to Russia
Chinese companies have sent Russian entities 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment that could be used for military purposes, including parts for drones and body armor, according to trade and customs data obtained by Politico.
The shipments took place between June and December 2022, according to data provided by Import Genius, a customs data aggregator.
China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, one of the country's largest state-owned arms companies, shipped the assault rifles in June 2022 to a Russian company called Techcrim, which does business with the Russian state and military. CQ-A rifles, modeled after the M16 but labeled as "civilian hunting rifles", are reported to be used by paramilitary police in China and countries such as the Philippines, South Sudan and Paraguay.
Russian entities also received 12 shipments of drone parts from Chinese companies and over 12 tons of Chinese body armor shipped through Turkey in late 2022.
While the customs data do not show that Beijing is selling large quantities of weapons to Moscow specifically to support its war effort, they do reveal that the communist country supplies Russian companies with "dual-use" equipment - commercial items that can also be used on the battlefield in Ukraine.
The confirmation of these deliveries comes as leaders in the US and Europe warn Beijing against supporting Russia's military campaign in Ukraine. Western officials have said in recent weeks that China is considering sending weapons to the Russian military, a move that could change the nature of the fighting in Ukraine, tilting it in Russia's favor. Officials are also concerned that some of the "dual-use" parts could also be used by Russia to equip reinforcements being sent to Ukraine at a time when Moscow is desperate for supplies.
China's Da-Jiang Innovations Science & Technology Co., also known as DJI, shipped drone parts — such as batteries and cameras — through the United Arab Emirates to a small Russian distributor in November and December 2022. DJI was sanctioned by the US in 2021 because it provided the Chinese state with drones to monitor the Uyghur minority in the western province of Xinjiang.
In addition to drones, Russia has for months relied on other countries, including China, for navigation equipment, satellite imagery, vehicle components and other resources that are helping the war in Ukraine.
It is currently unclear whether Moscow is using any of the Chinese-supplied assault rifles on the Ukrainian front. But DJI drones have been spotted on the battlefield for months.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement that Beijing is "committed to promoting peace talks" in Ukraine.
"China did not create the crisis. It is not a party to the crisis and has not provided weapons to any of the parties to the conflict," said embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu.
Asked about the findings in the data obtained by Politico, Poland's ambassador to the EU, Andrzej Sados, said that "due to the very serious potential consequences, this information should be verified immediately."
Although Western sanctions have hampered Moscow's ability to import everything from microchips to tear gas, Russia can still finance its war from "friendly" countries that do not follow the West's new rules, such as China or the Gulf states.
"Some commercial products, like drones or even microchips, can be adapted. They can be transformed from a simple benign civilian product into a lethal and military product," said Sam Bendett, assistant senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses, in Washington.
In cases where the Kremlin is looking for specific technology produced only in the US, the EU or Japan, there are clever ways for Moscow to avoid sanctions, which include buying equipment from intermediaries located in countries with good trade relations with both the West and the Kremlin.
Russia was able to import almost 80 tons of bulletproof vests worth about million last December, according to customs data from Import Genius. These bulletproof vests were manufactured by the Turkish company Aritex and most were imported directly from Turkey, although some of the shipments arrived in Russia via the United Arab Emirates. Russia also imported some body armor from China's Xinxing Guangzhou Import & Export Co.
Trade data also shows that Russian state defense company Rosoboronexport has been importing microchips, thermal imaging devices and spare parts such as gas turbine engines from countries as diverse as China, Serbia and Myanmar since 2022.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters last week that there would be "consequences" if China sent weapons to Russia, although he added that he had seen "no evidence" that Beijing was considering supplying arms to Moscow.
"We are now at a stage where we are making it clear that this should not happen, and I am optimistic that we will be successful with our claim in this case," he said.
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