Ukraine briefing: Poland to send Ukraine fighter jets; U.S. releases footage of apparent drone collision

MiG 29 fighter jets take part in NATO exercises over Poland on Oct. 12, 2022. (Radoslaw Jozwiak/AFP/Getty Images)
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Poland plans to give Ukraine Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO country to provide long-sought warplanes since the Russian invasion began last year, Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a news conference Thursday. The first four are set to arrive in the coming days. Western governments had thus far declined to send fighter jets out of concern over escalating tensions between NATO and Russia.

The U.S. military released footage it said shows the moment two Russian fighter jets intercepted a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. The video, edited by the Air Force, shows an aircraft approaching the drone and releasing what appears to be fuel.

Russia said it is working to recover the debris.

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

Poland says it will be first NATO country to give fighter jets to Ukraine

Jets to Ukraine

  • Poland is in the process of upgrading its air force with South Korean-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s, as it rapidly expands its military amid the war in neighboring Ukraine. It has about a dozen of the MiG-29s available that are “mostly” functional, Duda said, adding that the remainder will be “serviced and prepared” before also being donated.
  • Poland has played a leading role in getting taboo-breaking weaponry to Ukraine. As Germany stalled on sending tanks this year, Duda announced that Poland had decided to send them. “We are literally sending these MiGs to Ukraine at this moment,” Duda said.
  • While Ukraine’s allies had not previously sent fighter jets, they had collected spare parts to help get Ukraine’s own MiGs into flying condition.

U.S. releases video of Russian jets’ encounter with American drone

U.S. European Command released footage of Russian jets’ encounter with a U.S. drone. The Post annotated the video according to a timeline provided by the U.S. (Video: The Washington Post)

Drone crash

  • The declassified military footage shows a Russian jet releasing fuel and then colliding with the drone, according to a U.S. military statement. Pentagon officials said that after the jet collided with the U.S. aircraft, the drone’s camera feed was lost temporarily. When the camera feed returned, U.S. officials said, new damage could be seen on the drone’s propeller.
  • U.S. officials said the United States is investigating the incident. “We’ll be in close coordination with allies and partners at the conclusion of the investigation,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday on a trip to Ethiopia. “I can’t speak at this point to the motive or to intent.” The confrontation is the first known altercation between U.S. and Russian forces since the war in Ukraine began.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blamed the incident on the United States, saying the drone entered a flight restriction zone unilaterally designated by Russia. He made that argument to Austin on the telephone, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement. “U.S. flights of strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature,” the Russian statement said.

Battleground updates

  • U.S. officials lauded Ukraine for holding on to Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia has focused its war efforts in recent weeks. Milley said that in Bakhmut, Russians are only making “small, tactical advances” at “great cost,” and Austin commended the “valor” of Ukrainian soldiers for not giving up the town.
  • Russian forces shelled territories in the northeastern region of Sumy, the regional military administration said on Telegram. An agricultural company building and a residential one were damaged in the attacks.
A large fire erupted at a warehouse belonging to Russia’s Federal Security Services, or FSB, in Russia’s Rostov region on March 16. (Video: Reuters)

Global impact

  • A large fire erupted at a warehouse belonging to Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, killing one person in Russia’s Rostov region. Eyewitnesses told local outlets that ammunition in the warehouse could be heard detonating as the fire burned. Regional governor Vasily Golubev blamed the fire on an electrical short-circuit. “The flames spread and caused an explosion of fuel and lubricant containers,” Golubev said on Telegram. The FSB later said in a statement that fuel and lubricants had caught fire. The Post could not immediately verify the report.
  • Polish authorities have dismantled a Russian spy ring and detained nine people, Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told reporters Thursday. Six of them have been charged with espionage. Kaminski said that Polish security agents had found cameras and GPS equipment that were intended to be mounted onto “transports” for Ukraine. “The suspects conducted intelligence activities against Poland and prepared acts of sabotage at the request of Russian intelligence,” he told a news conference.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke with his Chinese counterpart, foreign minister Qin Gang, in a rare phone call Thursday. Qin said that he worries about the escalation of the crisis and “the possibility of it getting out of control,” according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement. He hopes that “all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained” and “not close the door to a political solution,” Qin added.
  • Kuleba also spoke with his U.S. counterpart Blinken the same day. They discussed “Ukraine’s Peace Formula and ways to expedite the delivery of artillery ammunition,” Kuleba said in a tweet.
  • A U.N.-backed inquiry found evidence that Russian authorities have committed international human rights and humanitarian law violations in both Ukraine and Russia, many of which “amount to war crimes,” according to a newly released report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which was established last March by the U.N. Human Rights Council. Russia’s use of torture and attacks on energy-related infrastructure “may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report added.

From our correspondents

The daring front-line mission to evacuate reluctant Ukrainians: Thirteen months into Russia’s full-scale invasion, some Ukrainians who are too sick or too prideful to have evacuated from combat zones remain in grave danger. A corps of volunteers is stepping in, Alex Horton and Anastacia Galouchka report from Chasiv Yar, Ukraine.

The group estimates that it has extracted 4,000 people since May, pulling them from some of the most dangerous places and helping them relocate in Ukraine or abroad.