Ukraine live briefing: Biden says no to F-16s for Kyiv

Ukrainian service members ride atop BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles in the Donetsk region on Jan. 30. (AFP/Getty Images)
7 min

President Biden said the United States will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, rejecting renewed calls by Kyiv officials for these advanced weapons to turn the tide of the conflict and boost Ukraine’s command of its airspace. Buoyed by long-sought commitments last week from the United States and Germany to send tanks, a Ukrainian official described fighter jets as Kyiv’s “next big hurdle.” But other allies also voiced reluctance to send them.

British intelligence officials warned that Moscow is probably preparing to open up a fresh offensive front in Ukraine’s east, with small-scale gains a realistic possibility. “Russian commanders are likely aiming to develop a new axis of advance into Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblast,” British officials said in an update. The escalation would also serve to divert Ukrainian forces from defending the heavily contested Bakhmut area, the Defense Ministry update added.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • The United States accused Russia on Tuesday of not complying with its obligations under New START, the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. The State Department said Russia is refusing to “facilitate” inspections on its territory required under the treaty but insisted that the United States remains committed to restoring compliance with the accord. At the start of the Biden administration, the United States agreed with Russia to extend the treaty for five years. The demise of New START would mark the near-total collapse of the nuclear nonproliferation architecture that the United States and the Soviet Union built during the 1980s and 1990s.
  • President Biden simply responded “no” when he was asked by a reporter whether the United States would send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Speaking afterward on CNN, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby pointed to last week’s commitment to send tanks and said that “there is a lot of capability that is being sent and will be sent.” Britain, Germany and the Netherlands also have suggested that they don’t intend to send fighter jets soon.
  • France will send 12 additional Caesar howitzers to Ukraine, French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said after meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, in Paris on Tuesday. France will also send 150 military personnel to Poland to train up to 600 Ukrainian troops per month, he added. The two officials talked about aviation “platforms” to aid Ukraine’s defense but did not discuss specific fighter jets, Reznikov said. Lecornu said there are “no taboos” on sending the aircraft, though French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris would do so only under certain criteria, including barring Kyiv from using the jets to attack Russian territory.
  • Ukraine will receive between 120 and 140 Western tanks in the first batch of contributions from allies, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday, Reuters reported. Those will include the German Leopard 2, the British Challenger 2 and the U.S. M1 Abrams, he said. A coalition of 12 countries has agreed to send the tanks, which Kyiv has requested for months. Kuleba did not specify the timeline for deliveries.
  • Ukrainian forces may have fired rockets carrying banned antipersonnel mines into Russian-controlled territory, according to a report Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. Its authors urged the Ukrainian government — which is a signatory to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibiting the weapon — to investigate. Russian forces were previously accused of using seven types of antipersonnel mines in the invasion last year.
  • U.S. officials visited Ukraine, Poland and Germany last week to discuss efforts to ensure oversight of U.S. aid to Ukraine. Leaders from the Offices of Inspector General for the State Department, the Defense Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development met with Ukrainian officials to emphasize the importance of Kyiv providing “timely and transparent access to information” to Washington about the use of U.S. funds, the Defense Department said in a news release Tuesday. “It is critical for the American people to have confidence in the integrity of taxpayer dollars sent to support Ukraine and its people,” Nicole Angarella, a USAID official, was quoted as saying. Several top Ukrainian officials were fired or resigned last week amid corruption allegations.

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian strikes hit the cities of Kherson and Ochakiv in southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said in an update early Tuesday local time. Civilians were among the victims, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said, warning that “the threat of … missile strikes throughout Ukraine remains high.”
  • Other Russian strikes on settlements near the Russian border in the Kharkiv region have killed civilians and destroyed buildings, the Ukrainian military said. Oleh Synyehubov, the regional governor, said Monday on Telegram that a Russian missile strike badly damaged a residential building in Kharkiv, adding that at least one person died and three were injured. He later said that a 62-year-old man was killed in another shelling attack in the city’s Chuhuiv district.

3. Global impact

  • More Americans say the United States has sent too much aid to Ukraine, a shift due in large part to a growing partisan divide, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center released Tuesday. As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion nears, Americans largely back some sort of aid. But about a quarter of Americans say the United States is providing too much — up six percentage points since September and 19 points since March. One-fifth of Americans would like to see the United States give Ukraine additional assistance. The share of Americans who believe the United States has given excessive support to Kyiv is greater among Republicans, even as GOP leaders remain divided.
  • Japan is shoring up its cooperation with NATO. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Tokyo on Tuesday to advance ties between Japan and the Western military alliance “at a historical inflection point” for their security, the two leaders said in a joint statement. They condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warned against “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East China Sea” — a reference to fears that China may be inspired by Russia’s actions against Ukraine to attack Taiwan. Kishida and Stoltenberg also voiced concern about Russia’s military cooperation with China, including joint operations near Japan.
  • Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to visit Moscow in the spring, Tass news agency reported. It is not clear whether Xi has accepted the invitation, which was extended as Russian diplomats increase their efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing. The Kremlin reportedly praised China for “playing an increasingly important role as a friendly nation in the current circumstances” and pointed to the two nations’ shared interest in challenging U.S. global influence.

4. From our correspondents

Ukraine intel chief predicted Russia’s war. He says Crimea will be retaken: Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence boss, was one of the only top Ukrainian officials who correctly warned that Russia would invade the country. He was brushed off early last year, but now that his forecast has tragically come to light, his insights carry great weight with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials.

In an interview with Ukraine bureau chief Isabelle Khurshudyan, Budanov predicted that annexed Crimea would be returned to Ukraine and that Russia would not use nuclear weapons to fight for the land. “It all started in Crimea in 2014, and it will all end there,” he said.

Meryl Kornfield and John Hudson contributed to this report.