The US State Department on Thursday rejected a proposal to send MiG fighter jets to Ukraine via US bases, saying Kyiv’s effort to repel the Russian invasion would be better served by providing weapons on the ground.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged Washington and NATO to send planes or set up a “no-fly zone” over the war-torn Western ally to defend against Russian air strikes.
However, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington, Ukraine has found ground-based defenses to be more effective at hitting back at Russia’s “remarkable” air force.
“We will continue to provide our Ukrainian partners with the surface-to-air systems they need to deal with the threat posed by Russian missiles, Russian missiles, artillery,” he said.
Mr. Price added that Ukraine already has “several squadrons” of “mission-capable” aircraft of its own, and that sending more by the United States to Ukraine could fuel the conflict.
“The intelligence community makes an assessment that delivering aircraft in this way … could be seen by Moscow as an escalation,” he told a news conference.
“We have a duty to do everything we can to resolve this conflict to save as many lives as possible, and to do everything we can to see that this conflict does not extend.”
Warsaw has expressed support for a plan in which Poland would send its Soviet-era MiG-29s to Kyiv via a US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, with the next step It was proposed that the United States equip the Polish fleet with F-16 fighters.
But US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak on Wednesday that Washington did not want to be involved in the plan.
Russian forces surrounded at least four major cities in Ukraine on Thursday, with armored vehicles running to the northeastern edge of the capital, Kyiv.
Washington has strongly supported Ukraine, leading the push for tough international sanctions and sending weapons and other aid.
The US House of Representatives gave the green light to a spending package that includes nearly $14 billion for Ukraine and its allies in Eastern Europe, which will be rubber stamped by the Senate as soon as Thursday.
The United States this week also imposed a ban on imports of Russian oil and gas, a move followed by Canada and a pledge from London to end imports for the year.
But it ruled out enforcing a no-fly zone for fear of being drawn directly into the conflict.
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