Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he is “very grateful” for US President Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine last month.
“It’s an important signal to the whole world that the US is supporting us. And I think that US believe that we will prevail,” Zelensky said.
But on the question of whether the US will send Ukraine F-16 fighter jets to help the battle for control in the skies, Zelensky said, “The fighter jets issue is difficult. We’re waiting for this decision to be taken.”
“We really need this and really appeal to the president that they could start training Ukrainian pilots, and President Biden told me that it will be worked upon … I believe that the United States will give us the opportunity to defend our skies,” Zelensky said.
Asked if the supply of Western jets will “make or break” a Ukrainian success in the war, Zelensky said: “Yes, we believe so.”
Recalling a discussion with Biden over jets, Zelensky said Biden and his aides felt jets “were not needed” at the moment.
“And I said, ‘No, we need those jets,'” Zelensky said.
“What fighter jets could do, they could help us to defend ourselves,” Zelensky said. “That’s why we need it urgently.”
More on Ukrainian pilots: The US is working with Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them to fly F-16 fighter jets, three sources briefed on the matter told CNN.
Two Ukrainian pilots are currently at a military base in the US having their skills tested in flight simulators to see how much time they would need to learn to fly various US military aircraft, including F-16s.
A US military official added that “there are no updates to provide regarding F-16s to Ukraine” and there are no immediate plans to increase the number of Ukrainian pilots in the US.