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Pentagon backtracks on claim of aircraft supplies to Kiev

No nation has sent any fighter jets to Ukraine, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby admitted on Wednesday as he apologized for having created a false “impression” and retracting an earlier statement from the US Defense Department on arms supplies to Kiev.

“I was mistaken,” Kirby said, adding that, although he did not say that “Ukraine had received ‘whole aircraft’,” that was “the impression that I gave you.” The spokesman has explained that he himself got a misguided impression about another nation following through with its offer to provide Ukraine with “whole fixed-wing aircraft.”

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“It has not. So, I was in error in saying that, in past tense, they had been given whole aircraft. I regret the error,” Kirby added.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon spokesman told journalists that Ukrainian troops “have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them … get more aircraft in the air.” He did specify at the time, though, that the US only helped with shipping certain spare parts and did not transport “the whole aircraft.

“Other nations who have experience with those kinds of aircraft have been able to help them get more aircraft up and running,” Kirby added.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon spokesman explained that Ukraine has just been provided with “enough spare parts and additional equipment” through “United States coordination and provision.” These deliveries have helped Kiev to “increase their fleet by quite a number,” he has added.

Separately, a senior US defense official has told AFP that the spare-parts supplies have allowed Ukraine to put 20 previously inoperable fighter jets back into service.

Kiev has been steadily asking the western nations for more heavy weapons, air-defense systems and fighter jets since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in late February. The US and its allies have been supplying the Ukrainian forces with arms almost since the start of the conflict but have mostly stopped short of sending heavy weapons. The only reports describing such transfers have been about the Czech Republic sending tanks to Ukraine but there had been no official confirmations on that.

The US recently announced a $800-million package of weapons for Kiev, including 200 armored personnel carriers and 18 towed howitzers.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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