Putin warns against striking Russia as Ukraine gets more aid from EU allies

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a second $1 billion promise of military aid in as many days Tuesday during a whirlwind tour of three European Union countries, while President Vladimir Putin warned that hitting Russian soil with Western-supplied weapons could set the war on a dangerous new path.

The aid pledge for 2024 came from Belgium, which topped up the money with a commitment to give Ukraine 30 F-16 fighter jets in the next four years.“Our task is to use the first F-16 on the battlefield this year and in such way fortify our positions,” Zelenskyy said.

He later traveled to Portugal, where he said it was important that Ukraine’s supporters don’t allow themselves to be misled by Russia and that “we don’t grow tired of the war.”

The onslaught by the Kremlin’s better-equipped forces that is unfolding in eastern and northeastern Ukraine as summer approaches has brought Ukraine its biggest military test since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

Slow deliveries of support by its Western partners, especially a lengthy delay in U.S. military aid, have left Ukraine at the mercy of Russia’s bigger army and air force.

European countries have been discussing the possibility of deploying troops to Ukraine in support roles, while talk of giving seized Russian assets to Ukraine has further angered Moscow.

Putin has repeatedly warned the West against deeper involvement in the fighting, holding out the specter of a nuclear conflict.

The use of Western-supplied long-range weapons by Ukraine to strike Russian territory could bring a dangerous escalation, Putin said Tuesday, speaking to reporters while on a trip to Uzbekistan.

The use of such weapons would rely on Western intelligence data and imply the involvement of NATO military personnel, Putin said, warning the alliance that they should be aware of the possible consequences“Representatives of countries that are NATO members, particularly in Europe, should be aware of what they are playing with,” he said, adding that “countries with small territory and dense populations” should be particularly careful.

The Netherlands promised to quickly assemble with key EU partners a Patriot air defence system, which Zelenskyy sees as key in stopping Russia from hitting Ukraine’s power grid and civilian areas, as well as military targets, with devastating glide bombs.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the move but insisted much more work was needed.“We have seen some progress, but more progress and more air defence systems are urgently needed in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said as he headed into a meeting of EU defence ministers.

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