Dozens of the American aircraft are set to be sent to Kyiv after long negotiations between the US and the two European countries.
During a visit to a Danish military base yesterday, Volodymyr Zelensky inspected the jets and said they could have a game-changing effect on the conflict.
He said: “F-16s will certainly give new energy, confidence and motivation to fighters and civilians.
“I’m sure it will deliver new results for Ukraine and Europe.”
The first aircraft are expected to arrive by the new year.
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Ukraine said some of its pilots were already in training, but it could take up to six months for staff to adapt to the new aircraft.
The pledge by the Netherlands and Denmark comes a few days after Washington approved the possible delivery of the fighter jets by the two countries.
Mr Zelensky called the decision a “breakthrough agreement” and said the planes would help strengthen Ukraine’s air defences and its counter-offensive.
Denmark will deliver 19 jets in all, with the first six due to be shipped to Ukraine by the start of next year followed by eight more in 2024 and five the following year.
Confirming the decision, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “Please take this donation as a token of Denmark’s unwavering support for your country’s fight for freedom.
“We know that your freedom is our freedom. We also know that you need more.”
Mr Zelensky, who was accompanied on the visit to Denmark by his wife Olena, directly addressed the Ukrainian pilots and engineers being trained to operate the new consignment of fighter jets.
He said: “I wish you successful training and return home with your new wings as soon as possible to defend our country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity. I am confident in each of you.”
He smiled and chatted with Ms Frederiksen as they sat in an F-16 cockpit.
The pilots will continue their training on foreign soil before taking to the skies over Ukraine when the aircraft are delivered.
The Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country has 42 F-16s available.
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But he has yet to decide whether all of them will be donated and what the timeframe is for sending them.
Mr Rutte said at a joint press conference in Eindhoven: “We can announce that the Netherlands and Denmark commit to the transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine and the Ukrainian air force.”
He added that the Dutch jets would be handed over from existing stockpiles once “the conditions for such a transfer have been met”.
Denmark and the Netherlands have led a months-long effort to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s and to ultimately deliver the jets to help counter the air superiority of Russia, whose forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov also confirmed that training had begun for Ukrainian pilots, but that it would take at least six months and possibly longer to also train engineers and mechanics. Mr Zelensky called the Dutch and Danish donations a “huge push for other countries who were in doubt” about providing Ukraine with F-16s.
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Asked whether there were conditions attached to the donations, such as a commitment not to use them in Russian territory, Mr Zelensky said that had not been discussed but added that defending Ukrainian territory was the “main goal”.
Ukraine still uses Soviet-era planes from the 1970s and 1980s – but Russia warned the F-16s would only add fuel to the conflict.
Moscow’s ambassador to Denmark, Vladimir Barbin, said: “The fact that Denmark has now decided to donate 19 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine leads to an escalation of the conflict.
“By hiding behind a premise that Ukraine itself must determine the conditions for peace, Denmark seeks with its actions and words to leave Ukraine with no other choice but to continue the military confrontation with Russia.”
News that F-16s will be sent to Kyiv came as the horrifying human cost of Russia’s invasion was laid bare yesterday.
US government sources last night revealed that the combined number of troops killed or wounded on both sides is now nearing 500,000. While announcing the horrifying figure, official Pentagon sources cautioned that casualty statistics still remained difficult to estimate.
This is because Moscow is believed to routinely undercount its war dead and injured.
In addition, Kyiv does not disclose its official figures.
But according to the US government officials, the Kremlin’s military casualties are now approaching around 300,000.
This includes as many as 120,000 deaths and 170,000 to 180,000 who are injured.
Ukrainian deaths are now believed to be close to 70,000, with 100,000 to 120,000 wounded.
Official US sources said the casualty count had picked up after Ukraine launched its counter-offensive earlier this year.
Mr Zelensky, who was accompanied on the visit to Denmark by his wife Olena, also directly addressed the Ukrainian pilots and engineers being trained to operate the new consignment of fighter jets.
He said: “I wish you successful training and return home with your new wings as soon as possible to defend our country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity. To protect our people and our homes. I am confident in each of you.”
The President further stressed that the whole of Ukraine was proud of its defenders and wished them every success.
He also smiled and joked with his wife as they each sat in the cockpits of the F-16 fighter jets which will be sent to Ukraine in the coming months in a bid to help Kyiv defend itself.
The pilots will continue their training on foreign soil before taking to the skies over Ukraine when the aircraft are delivered later in the year.
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