COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — NATO-member Norway will donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Thursday, amid Kyiv’s difficult counteroffensive against Russia.
Speaking to Norwegian news agency NTB in Kyiv where he paid a visit on the occasion of Ukraine’s Independence Day, Gahr Støre said Norway will provide F-16 aircraft to Ukraine but they’ll probably be less than 10.
Gahr Støre said he informed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the aircraft donation and that Norway would discuss the number of planes as well as the transfer timetable with Kyiv and other allied countries.
“But Ukraine can count on Norway to make a contribution,” Gahr Støre added.
Norway would be the third European country after the Netherlands and Denmark to donate F-16 planes.
Ukraine has long pleaded for the sophisticated fighter jets to give it a combat edge. It recently launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s forces without air cover, placing its troops at the mercy of Russian aviation and artillery.
In February, oil-rich Norway announced that it is donating 75 billion kroner ($7 billion) to Kyiv as part of a five-year support package, making Norway one of the world’s biggest donors to Ukraine.
The money will be split evenly between military and humanitarian assistance over five years, broken down to 15 billion kroner ($1.4 billion) annually.
Gahr Støre had announced earlier Thursday that Norway would also donate anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, saying ”air defense is critical to Ukraine’s ability to protect both the civilian population and front-line infrastructure and military units against any type of Russian air attack.”
“This is one of the largest Norwegian donations of military material to Ukraine to date,” Gahr Støre said in a statement.
The Norwegian government has long said it is considering sending F-16s to Ukraine. In January, Norway received the first of the 52 F-35s it has ordered. The new fighter jets are to replace Norway’s fleet of F-16.
Last week, th e Netherlands and Denmark announced that they will donate F-16 aircraft. Denmark said it will provide 19 planes, while the Netherlands has not said how many planes it will donate.