Belgium to supply Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets by 2028

Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo (R), Defence Minister of Belgium Ludivine Dedonder (L), and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) stand in front of an F16 fighter plane during a visit at Melsbroek military airport. Zelensky is visiting Belgium to sign a bilateral security agreement in Brussels. Eric Lalmand/Belga/dpa
Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo (R), Defence Minister of Belgium Ludivine Dedonder (L), and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) stand in front of an F16 fighter plane during a visit at Melsbroek military airport. Zelensky is visiting Belgium to sign a bilateral security agreement in Brussels. Eric Lalmand/Belga/dpa
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Belgium is to supply Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets by 2028 as part of a bilateral long-term security pact signed on Tuesday in Brussels.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alongside Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo welcomed the delivery of the fighter jets as part of Belgium's "unwavering support" for Ukraine.

The security accord is over a 10-year term and will see €977 million ($1.06 billion) in financial support from Belgium to help in Ukraine's defence against the full-scale Russian invasion.

Zelensky announced the pact on the social media platform X. He said Ukraine expects the first delivery of fighter jets by the end of the year.

De Croo said in a press conference that Belgium "will do everything" possible to deliver the first fighter jets to Ukraine by the end of 2024.

Pressed on whether the aircraft are supplied to Ukraine with conditions attached, De Croo stressed that the fighter jets are for Ukraine's defence forces to use on Ukraine's territory.

Zelensky hit out at the restrictions placed on military aid, specifically that some countries do not allow the weapons they supply to be used to strike Russian territory in case it makes them a party to the conflict. He detailed Russia's long-range attacks and Ukraine's inability to respond due to conditions attached to weapon supplies.

"I think this is unfair, but we, and this is a fact, cannot risk the support of our partners," he said. Zelensky called for the restrictions to be lifted so Ukraine can respond to Russia.

Ukraine's security pact with Belgium also contains provisions to support the country's economic recovery and reconstruction after the war.

Belgium was one of the countries that pledged to provide aircraft to Ukraine.

The security agreement goes back to a decision by NATO leaders at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in July.

It was agreed there that the individual member states would conclude bilateral agreements to ensure Ukraine's long-term security.

Britain, Germany and France reached an agreement with Kiev in January and February.

The agreements ensure that Ukraine will receive arms supplies and financial aid to help bridge the gap until the country's intended accession to NATO.

The United States and Ukraine have not yet finalized their negotiations.

On Monday, Zelensky signed a bilateral security agreement with Spain, which provided more than €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) in aid for Kiev, including anti-aircraft missiles, Leopard tanks and ammunition.

Zelensky is scheduled to visit Melsbroek military airport to be briefed on the preparations for Belgium's delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

An F16 fighter plane is pictured ahead of a visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Melsbroek military airport. Zelensky is visiting Belgium to sign a bilateral security agreement in Brussels. Eric Lalmand/Belga/dpa
An F16 fighter plane is pictured ahead of a visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Melsbroek military airport. Zelensky is visiting Belgium to sign a bilateral security agreement in Brussels. Eric Lalmand/Belga/dpa