Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, continued his call for the west to provide F-16 fighter jets and air defence equipment in the wake of the rebellion waged by the Russian mercenary army Wagner Group in their march toward Moscow on 24 June.

“Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian guns, Ukrainian tanks, Ukrainian missiles are all that protect Europe from such marches as we see today on Russian territory.

“And when we ask to give us the F-16 fighters or the ATACMS, we’re enhancing our common defence. Real defence. This is what is needed. Now is the time to provide all the weapons necessary for defence,” Zelenskyy stated after reports began to circulate that Wagner marched toward the Russian capital.

Wagner escalation

In repsonse to ongoing infighting with the Russian military establishement, Wagner sought to challenge the Russian state due to its poor military decision-making in conducting the war in Ukraine. The mercenary group overtook Rostov-on-Don, a key strategic Russian city close to the border with Ukraine where Russia’s central command base is situated.

In a bid to defuse the rebellion, the Russian Deputy Commander of the joint group of forces and General of the Army, Sergei Surovikin, appealed to Wagner soldiers to stop and “obey the will and order of the President of the Russian Federation.”

“I appeal to the leadership, to the commanders and fighters of the Wagner PMC. Together with you we have passed a difficult, hard way, we have fought together, taken risks, suffered losses,” Surovikin pleaded.

Providing F-16s for Ukraine

Before the rebellion, on 22 June, the topic of donating F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine came up in a US Department of Defense (DoD) press briefing.

“The Netherlands and Denmark are in the lead in terms of developing the training programme for Ukrainian F-16 pilots.

“We have received a request from Denmark to support F-16 training, which would be expected.  That is currently under review.

“What we anticipate going forward is that, before the end of the year obviously, that F-16 training will start somewhere in Europe.  The United States will work closely with our allies to implement that training, but again, the Dutch and the Danes are in the lead,” the DoD Press Secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder stated.