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Ukraine can strike Russian targets with Dutch F-16s

Ukraine can strike Russian targets with Dutch F-16s

by host

SINGAPORE — Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren has reassured Kyiv that the 24 F-16 fighter jets that the Netherlands intends to donate to Ukraine may be used to strike targets inside Russia.

In an interview with POLITICO at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Ollongren said the Netherlands would not impose a limitation as was the case with Belgium, where Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has warned Kyiv not to fly the F-16s it gets from his country in Russian airspace.

“There is not” a Belgian-style restriction, Ollongren said. “We are applying the same principle that we have applied to every other delivery of capabilities, which is once we hand it over to Ukraine, it’s theirs to use,” she said.

“We only ask them to comply to international law and the right to self-defense as stated in the U.N. Charter, which means they use it to target the military goals they need to target in their self-defense,” Ollongren said.

Ollongren and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were among senior officials who met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who also attended the Singapore conference on Sunday.

The Netherlands also pledged to continue its naval presence in the South China Sea, where Southeast Asian countries are increasingly uncomfortable with China’s assertive behavior in international waters.

A Dutch frigate crossed the Taiwan Strait uneventfully while Ollongren was in Singapore. However, she said a Chinese helicopter recently tried to approach a Dutch helicopter during a joint exercise with the U.S. over the South China Sea.

“That was remarkable,” she said. “We were in international waters, and our helicopter was in the air, but also in the international part.”

Ollongren will step down as Dutch defense minister after the country’s new far-right government is sworn in. She expressed the hope that the incoming government will continue to support NATO and Ukraine.

“I think it’s vital that we continue to play that role. I have seen in the program for [the] new government that the support [for] Ukraine will continue, that the new government also values the European Union, NATO, etc.,” she said.

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