However, Ukraine needs around 160 planes “to have a powerful air force that prevents Russia from dominating the airspace,” Zelensky told the Portuguese public broadcaster RTP.
Zelensky said that F-16s are needed not for Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive but to protect civilians and humanitarian corridors in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
“We are fighting with Russia for our Ukrainian land, against Russia’s invasive policy. We need fighter jets merely to defend ourselves. To defend our land, our sea, our sky”, the president added in the interview.
According to RTP, Zelensky expects the fighter jets to operate in the Ukrainian sky at the beginning of the next year, recognizing that the process is complex as it requires training of pilots, engineers, and specialized maintenance.