Updated March 29th, 2024 at 18:05 IST

Kremlin Issues Stark Warning on NATO's F-16 Deployment, Dismisses Allegations of Attack Plans

Russian President Putin dismisses allegations of Russia targeting NATO but warns Western air bases hosting F-16s in Ukraine could be "legitimate targets."

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Military analysts downplay F-16 impact on Russian air dominance, emphasizing Russia's countermeasures. | Image:AP
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Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the notion of Russia attacking a NATO member as "sheer nonsense" but cautioned that Western air bases hosting U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets slated for deployment in Ukraine could become "legitimate targets" for Kremlin forces. Putin's remarks, delivered during a visit to an air base, come amidst escalating tensions over Ukraine's military buildup with Western support. 

Addressing military pilots, Putin rejected claims of Russia's intent to attack Europe post-Ukraine, citing the vast disparity in defense budgets between Russia and the United States. He labeled such speculation as "ravings" and emphasized Russia's commitment to peace. However, he issued a warning against deploying F-16s in Ukraine, highlighting the strategic implications and potential risks involved. 

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Russia dismisses allegations, but issues warning 

The anticipated arrival of F-16s in Ukraine, promised by Western allies, has raised concerns in Moscow. These fighter jets require specialized infrastructure for protection, posing a challenge for Ukrainian air bases. Putin cautioned against providing air bases for F-16 sorties, stating they could become targets due to their capability to carry nuclear weapons, adding complexity to combat operations.

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Military analysts downplayed the impact of F-16s on Russia's air dominance, citing Russia's formidable air force and advanced defense systems. While acknowledging the F-16s as a potential threat, Putin asserted they wouldn't alter the battlefield dynamics. He vowed to neutralize any perceived threats, emphasizing Russia's ability to counter various military assets effectively. 

Despite Russia's military superiority, Ukraine has sought to enhance its capabilities, including leveraging F-16s for long-range missile strikes. Previous offensives were hindered by the absence of air cover, leaving Ukrainian troops vulnerable to Russian airstrikes. However, with Western assistance, Ukraine aims to strengthen its defenses and retaliate against Russian aggression. 

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Kremlin fires salvoes of drones and missiles 

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has witnessed intensified attacks by Russian forces, targeting civilian areas and critical infrastructure. The recent escalation includes missile barrages and drone strikes, aimed at weakening Ukrainian defenses and morale. Russia's strategy also aims to deplete Ukraine's air defense capabilities, potentially tilting the balance in favor of Russian forces.

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A Ukrainian drone operator. | Credit- AP

The International Institute for Strategic Studies underscored the importance of Ukraine's ability to counter Russian air threats amid escalating tensions. With delays in Western military support, Ukraine faces mounting challenges in sustaining its defense capabilities against Russian aggression. Recent attacks in southern Ukraine resulted in civilian casualties and damage to residential areas, highlighting the humanitarian toll of the conflict. Despite facing relentless assaults, Ukrainian authorities remain resilient, repelling missile and drone attacks in key regions. 

As tensions persist, the international community closely monitors developments in Ukraine, with concerns over the potential for further escalation. Efforts to de-escalate the conflict and pursue diplomatic solutions remain paramount to preventing further violence and instability in the region. 

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Published March 29th, 2024 at 17:54 IST