Ukraine says controlling skies ‘priority’ in war against Russia

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says whoever controls the skies will define ‘when and how the war will end’.

residential building destroyed as a result of a missile attack in Kharkiv
A residential building is destroyed in a missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, January 16, 2024 [Sergey Bobok/AFP]

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said his country’s priority for 2024 is to gain control over its skies as Russia’s invasion nears its third year.

Whoever controls the skies will define “when and how the war will end”, Kuleba said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Ukraine has long called on the West to deliver advanced fighter jets to support its troops entrenched in the south and the east of the country.

“We are fighting a powerful enemy, a very big enemy that doesn’t sleep. It takes time,” Kuleba said.

“We defeated them on the land in 2022. We defeated them in the sea in 2023 and we are completely focused on defeating them in the air in 2024.”

(From L) Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Financial Times editor Roula Khalaf, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian President Katalin Novak and Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic attend a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on January 17, 2024. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Kuleba, second from left, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2024 [Fabrice Coffrini/AFP]

Various NATO countries are currently training Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets. Denmark said this month it will transfer 19 F-16s in the second quarter of this year.

The United States had previously resisted allowing the jet transfers for fear of being deemed by Russia to be a direct belligerent in the Ukraine war.

The conflict has ground to a deadlock over the last year as Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive failed to push back Russian forces. Kuleba also called for patience from his country’s key Western backers and insisted that, with the right support, Ukraine could be victorious.

More EU support likely

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed confidence on Wednesday that all European Union member states will agree to jointly extend more financial aid to Ukraine.

“I am proud that our union has answered Ukraine’s call,” she told the European Parliament.

EU leaders last month agreed to start accession talks with Ukraine but Hungary vetoed granting 50 billion euros ($54bn) in aid for Kyiv through 2027.

Hungary has resisted agreement on an aid package, raising the possibility of the other 26 countries giving funds to Ukraine under separate bilateral deals with Kyiv.

The bloc’s 27 leaders will meet in Brussels on February 1 to try to agree on providing more financial assistance to Kyiv.

Russia, Ukraine trade fire

At least 17 people were injured, two of them seriously, after Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the city of Kharkiv overnight.

Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said two S-300 missiles hit buildings in the centre of Ukraine’s second-biggest city on Tuesday night, and 14 people were sent to hospital.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the missiles struck “precisely where there is no military infrastructure and precisely where there are in fact residences”.

“There are at least 10 damaged buildings. Rescue teams are continuing to go through the rubble,” he wrote on Telegram. “And there is plenty of rubble.”

In the southern port city of Odesa, at least three people were injured, and residential buildings were damaged in the overnight drone attacks, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The Ukrainian military said the Russian attack targeted Odesa and other southern regions for at least three hours.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Ministry of Defence on Wednesday said its air defence forces destroyed seven Vilkha surface-to-air missiles and four drones over the Russian region of Belgorod.

Later, four RM-70 Vampire rockets were destroyed and two drones were intercepted, the ministry added.

Source: News Agencies