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US dismisses Polish plan to provide fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine | Ukraine

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The Pentagon has rejected Poland’s plan to hand over its MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States to bolster Ukraine’s fight against Russia, as Moscow officials say they are ready to provide supplies. humanitarian corridors on Wednesday morning to people fleeing Kyiv and four other cities.

Washington appeared surprised by Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau’s announcement on Tuesday that his government was “ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all of their MiG-29 aircraft to Ramstein Air Base and make available to the Government of the United States of America.

The Pentagon appeared to reject the proposal, saying it was not “tenable”.

In a statement, the US Department of Defense said the prospect of the jets departing from the base in Germany “to fly into disputed airspace with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance”.

“We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies on this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is tenable,” said John Kirby, Secretary of State. Pentagon press.

The dispute arose as Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Defense Control Center, said Russian forces would “observe a regime of silence” from 7 a.m. GMT to ensure safe passage for civilians wishing to leave Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol. It was unclear whether the proposed routes would pass through Russia or Belarus, terms previously opposed by the Ukrainian government.

Authorities in Kyiv have previously accused Moscow of bombing a similar refugee corridor intended to allow residents to escape from the devastated port of Mariupol.

“The enemy launched an attack heading exactly towards the humanitarian corridor,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Facebook on Tuesday, adding that the Russian military “did not let children, women and the elderly leave the city”. The International Committee of the Red Cross said many residents of Mariupol face an “apocalyptic” situation, without water, electricity or heating.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said 5,000 civilians were successfully evacuated from the Sumy region on Tuesday, where 21 people were killed in airstrikes on Tuesday.

The Polish incident exposed cracks in the NATO alliance that the Biden administration has struggled to keep in step in the face of the Russian invasion. Vice President Kamala Harris is due to meet with the Polish government in Warsaw on Thursday, where she will try to undo some of the diplomatic damage. The United States said on Tuesday it was deploying two of its Patriot anti-missile batteries to Poland to help protect NATO troops and territory. The deployment aims to provide a layer of protection against the Ukrainian conflict that spills over the country’s western border.

“This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and allied forces and NATO territory,” U.S. European Command said in a statement.

In other developments:

  • Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have reportedly refused to arrange calls with Joe Biden in recent weeks as the United States seeks to boost oil supplies after officially banning Russian oil imports on Tuesday, pushing prices oil at $130 a barrel, the highest level in 14 years.

  • Venezuela released at least two jailed US citizens on Tuesday, according to multiple sources, in an apparent gesture of goodwill. This follows a visit to Caracas by a high-level US delegation that focused not only on the plight of Americans detained in Venezuela, but on the possibility of easing US oil sanctions against the OPEC member. , which is a close ally of Russia.

  • The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is no longer transmitting data to the UN’s atomic watchdog, the agency said, expressing “deep concern” for personnel working under Russian guard at the captured Ukrainian facility. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, expressed his fears for nuclear security and offered to visit the site.

  • Foreign volunteers will be able to obtain Ukrainian citizenship, First Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin said in a TV interview. Nearly 20,000 people from 52 countries have signed up to volunteer in the war with Russia.

  • More Western brands continued to suspend operations in Russia, with Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi joining McDonald’s in halting sales.

  • NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, warned Russia that any attack on supply lines in NATO countries transporting arms and ammunition to Ukraine would be grounds for retaliation. “An attack on NATO territory, on NATO forces, on NATO capabilities, that would be an attack on NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

  • British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will meet her American counterpart Antony Blinken in Washington on Wednesday to discuss what more can be done to help Ukraine and reduce its energy dependence on Russia. Truss called the invasion of Ukraine “a wake-up call for free democracies.”

Poland is believed to have 28 of the Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets and had been in negotiations with the Biden administration over a three-way deal in which Warsaw would give the planes to Ukraine, on the condition that the United States United provide the Polish Air Force with new American fighters.

“Poland requests the United States to provide us with second-hand aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities,” Rau said in a statement posted on his ministry’s website. “Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions for the purchase of the aircraft.”

Rau asked other NATO allies with MiG-29 jets – a reference to Slovakia and Bulgaria – “to act in the same vein”.

By handing them over to the United States, Poland hoped to mitigate the risk of direct retaliation from Russia.

However, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said the Polish announcement caught Washington off guard, calling it a “surprise move by the Poles”.

“To my knowledge, we were not consulted beforehand that they would consider giving us these planes,” Nuland told Congress. “I look forward, when this hearing is over, to returning to my office and seeing how we respond to their offer to give us the planes.”

The idea of ​​donating ex-warplanes to Ukraine was raised on February 27 by the EU’s foreign and security policy chief, Josep Borrell, who said: “We are even going to provide fighter “. The announcement annoyed Polish officials, who said Warsaw had not been properly consulted on a decision that could put the country at risk.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not address the issue directly, but warned that any country that provided airfields for Ukrainian warplanes which would then be used against the Russians would be considered by Moscow to be involved in the conflict. . The Polish thought is that when the planes are delivered to Ukrainian pilots, they will take off from an airbase in Germany as US assets.

Poland announced its plan as US officials said the war in Ukraine had reached a pivotal moment, with Russia suffering heavy losses but Putin determined to continue.

“I think the next two days are going to be critical both for the humanitarian situation and for the course of this war,” said Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). , to the Guardian. .

U.S. intelligence agencies told Congress on Tuesday they tentatively estimate 2,000 to 4,000 Russian troops have been killed so far, but that Putin would persevere in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

“We believe that Putin feels aggrieved that the West is not giving him the proper deference and perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose,” US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told The Daily Mail. House Intelligence Committee.

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