Ukrainian general says Polish MiG fighter jets and no-fly zone are desperately needed to counter Russian gains

Despite shooting down nearly 70 Russian airplanes and another 80 helicopters, the Ukrainian air force has suffered its own losses that have given the Russians an even more decisive 10-to-1 advantage in the air, threatening a “catastrophe” for his country, a top Ukrainian general said on Tuesday.

The loss of its own fighter jets and other aircraft has made it all the more urgent that Ukraine receive Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and that NATO impose a no-fly zone over at least some regions of the country, said Col. Gen. Serhii Drozdov, the former chief of the Ukrainian air force and a key member of the country’s defense ministry, in an interview for the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast.

“We have lost many aircraft, and we must increase our capability,” said Drozdov. “If Ukraine wants to have victory, we must think about Ukraine’s skies being protected. We cannot defend ourselves without a full arsenal.”

Serhii Drozdov
Col. Gen. Serhii Drozdov, commander of Ukraine's air force. (Nina Liashonok/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Drozdov’s plea for more military assistance is expected to be repeated Wednesday when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. So far, however, the Biden administration has been adamantly opposed to both the MiG fighter jet transfer and a NATO no-fly zone, fearing that such moves would risk a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia.

While not disputing Drozdov’s estimate on Russian versus Ukrainian airplane casualties, a Pentagon spokesman declined to provide any details. “This is not our war, and we’re not going to be in a position to give operational updates,” the spokesman said.

A Polish air force Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft
A Polish air force Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft. (Steve Thorne/Getty Images)

Drozdov discounted one reason that has been cited for rejecting the MiG transfer: a lack of trained Ukrainian pilots to fly them. He pointed out that he flew the Soviet-era MiGs himself, and there are many others in the Ukrainian air force capable of doing so.

“Now, we have many pilots who have no aircraft,” he said. “We have enough pilots, not enough planes.”

Drozdov also offered a somewhat modified request for a no-fly zone, suggesting that it is currently needed, not necessarily for the entire country, but for at least two distinct purposes: to protect humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and for the protection of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, two of which — in Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia — are now under control of the Russians.

He pointed out that the Zaporizhzhia plant — the largest of its kind in Europe — was hit by a projectile when the Russians first attacked it and that in recent days the Russians have blown up ammunition nearby. He also suggested the ammunition explosion could signal a Russian willingness to destroy one of the plants and cause a radiation leak or worse.

“We don’t ask our allies to fight Russia,” Drozdov said. “We ask for the protection of civilians and the prevention of an international nuclear catastrophe.”


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