Chris Lange, FISM News
The Pentagon said Friday that the U.S. is now discussing the feasibility of providing Ukraine with American-made fighter jets following months of adamantly refusing to do so.
Since Russia’s invasion, Kyiv has repeatedly asked the West to supply it with fighter jets to defend itself against Russian airstrikes that have pulverized cities like Mariupol and inflicted mass casualties on Ukrainian civilians. The U.S. Defense Department has denied the requests on multiple occasions, citing fears of escalating tensions with Moscow that could draw the U.S. into the war.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that while it is now something under consideration, providing the jets to Ukraine is “not something that would be executed in the near-term,” according to Reuters.
Such a move would signify a major increase in U.S. support for Ukraine as the war with Russia enters its sixth month. To date, the U.S. has provided $8.2 billion in security aid for Ukraine.
The most recent U.S. arms package for Ukraine, totaling $270 million, includes 580 AEVEX Aerospace Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial vehicles and four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), according to a Department of Defense press release.
Russia bombs port
Russia bombs hit the port city of Odesa on Saturday, nearly a day after they had signed a deal with Ukraine to secure safe passage of grain shipments from Black Sea ports amidst a global food shortage.
World leaders expressed outrage, saying the strike casts significant doubt on Moscow’s intention to follow through with the agreement.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said Russia must be held accountable for the “outrageous” attack and continued weaponization of food.
The strikes caused a nearly 4% increase in wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. Prices had dropped nearly 6% after the export agreement was announced.
“It is absolutely appalling that only a day after striking this deal, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin has launched a completely unwarranted attack on Odesa,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Struss said. “It shows that not a word he says can be trusted and we need to urgently work with our international partners to find a better way of getting the grain out of Ukraine that doesn’t involve Russia and their broken promises,”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also condemned the attacks, saying, “This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement [the grain deal].”
After Russia initially denied involvement in the attack, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Odesa strike was not in violation of the pact, claiming that Russia specifically targeted military infrastructure.
“A high-precision, long-range sea-based weapons strike near the settlement of Bogdanivtsi in the Khmelnytskyi region has destroyed a transshipment base with U.S.-supplied HIMARS ammunition and shells for US M777 large-caliber howitzers,” Peskov told reporters in a conference call.
Despite the setback, Ukraine pressed forward with efforts to ship grain from its Black Sea ports but cautioned that deliveries could be halted once more if Moscow violates the agreement again.
Millions of tons of grain have been held up in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, resulting in soaring food costs and stoking fears of mass starvation and unprecedented migration.
Top Russian diplomat meets with Egyptian officials
Elsewhere, top Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov met with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Sunday as Moscow ramps up its efforts to mitigate the impact of diplomatic isolation and Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.
Lavrov held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry as well as Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. In a joint news conference with Shukry, Lavrov discussed Russia’s “military operation” in Ukraine with Egyptian officials who are calling for “a political and diplomatic” settlement to the conflict, the Arab League said, according to an Associated Press report.
Lavrov is also planning stops in Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.