WASHINGTON – NEWS – United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III thanked Poland’s willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine, but he stressed that the United States does not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time, a United States Defense Department official said today.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby spoke at a press conference today. ”The best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and the systems that they need most to defeat Russian aggression; in particular, anti-armor and air defense,” said Kirby. ”We, along with other nations, continue to send them these weapons and we know that they’re being used with great effect. The slowed Russian advance in the north. And the contested airspace over Ukraine is evidence alone of that”.
“Although Russian air capabilities are significant, their effectiveness has been limited due to Ukrainian strategic operational and tactical ground-based air defense systems, surface-to-air missiles and man-portable, air-defense systems”, Kirby said.
“The Ukrainian Air Force currently has several squadrons of fully mission capable aircraft”, he added. ”We assess that adding aircraft to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of Ukrainian Air Force relative to Russian capabilities.”
“The intelligence community has assessed that the transfer of MiG 29 jets to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO”, Kirby said. “We are grateful for the superb support and cooperation of our Polish allies who continue to host thousands of our troops,” he added, “Along with millions of Ukrainian refugees”.
“Polish generosity is clearly on display for the whole world to see,” he continued. ”We know the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as well as average Ukrainian citizens are defending their country with great skill and bravery. We will continue to look for ways to help them do that”.
Russian President Putin has stated that any efforts by other countries or NATO to assist militarily in Ukraine will be seen as an act of war.
Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine
The Director of the World Health Organization addressed a press conference earlier today.
“So far, WHO has delivered 81 metric tons of supplies, and WHO is establishing a pipeline of supplies for health facilities throughout Ukraine, especially in the most affected areas.
“Yesterday, we delivered five metric tons of medical supplies to Kyiv to support surgical care for 150 trauma patients, and other supplies to manage a range of health conditions for 45 thousand people for a month.
“More supplies will be distributed today, and we have 400 cubic metres of supplies waiting to be transported to Ukraine from our logistics hub in Dubai.
“So far, WHO has verified 18 attacks on health facilities, health workers and ambulances, including 10 deaths and 16 injuries.
“These attacks deprive whole communities of health care.
“More than 2 million people have left Ukraine, and WHO is supporting neighbouring countries to provide health care for refugees, most of whom are women and children.
“Some of the main health challenges we see are hypothermia and frostbite, respiratory diseases, lack of treatment for cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and mental health issues.
“WHO personnel have been deployed to neighbouring countries to provide mental health and psychosocial support.
“I thank all my WHO colleagues, and all our partners in Ukraine and its neighbours and all over the world, who continue to work to protect and promote health, even in the most difficult situations.
“But the only real solution to this situation is peace.
“WHO continues to call on the Russian Federation to commit to a peaceful resolution to this crisis, and to allow safe, unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for those in need.
“A peaceful resolution is possible – and that is true in every war and humanitarian crisis to which WHO is responding around the world.”