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Putin says Russia will not attack NATO, but F-16s will be shot down in Ukraine

1 min

Russia has no designs on any NATO country and will not attack Poland, the Baltic states or the Czech Republic but if the West supplies F-16 fighters to Ukraine then they will be shot down by Russian forces, President Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the 344th State Centre for combat use and retraining of flight crews of the Russian Defence Ministry in the town of Torzhok in the Tver Region, Russia March 27, 2024. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters

Russia has no designs on any NATO country and will not attack Poland, the Baltic states or the Czech Republic but if the West supplies F-16 fighters to Ukraine then they will be shot down by Russian forces, President Vladimir Putin said late on Wednesday.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has triggered the deepest crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Speaking to Russian air force pilots, Putin said the U.S.-led military alliance had expanded eastwards towards Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union but that Moscow had no plans to attack a NATO state.

"We have no aggressive intentions towards these states," Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript released on Thursday.

"The idea that we will attack some other country - Poland, the Baltic States, and the Czechs are also being scared - is complete nonsense. It's just drivel."

The Kremlin, which accuses the U.S. of fighting against Russia by supporting Ukraine with money, weapons and intelligence, says relations with Washington have probably never been worse.

Asked about F-16 fighters which the West has promised to send to Ukraine, Putin said such aircraft would not change the situation in Ukraine.

"If they supply F-16s, and they are talking about this and are apparently training pilots, this will not change the situation on the battlefield," Putin said.

"And we will destroy the aircraft just as we destroy today tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers."

Putin said that F-16 could also carry nuclear weapons.

"Of course, if they will be used from airfields in third countries, they become for us legitimate targets, wherever they might be located," Putin said.

Putin's remarks followed comments earlier in the day by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that the aircraft should arrive in Ukraine in the coming months.

Ukraine, now more than two years into a full-fledged war against Russia, has sought F-16s for many months.

Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands are among countries which have pledged to donate F-16s. A coalition of countries has promised to help train Ukrainian pilots in their use.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow and Ron Popeski

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