Macron says France to train Ukrainian fighter pilots

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that his country had “opened the door” to training Ukrainian fighter pilots, even if he excluded sending any war planes to Kyiv.

Macron spoke a day after Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky visited Paris on the second such trip since Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbor in February last year.

“We have opened the door to training pilots, and this with several other European countries who are also ready. I think discussions are under way with the Americans,” he said in a televised interview with the TF1 broadcaster.

“The training can start from now,” Macron added, without providing further details.

After months of stalemate, Ukraine has been preparing to retake ground captured by Russia and is shoring up military assistance to help make its troops more battle-ready.

Zelensky has for months been pleading for modern fighter jets such as the US-designed F-16, but NATO members have so far drawn the line at sending Kyiv any such war planes.

One French official close to air force command in February told AFP that France could in theory send 13 recently decommissioned French fighters of the Mirage 2000-C type, but that it would likely take too long to train Ukrainian pilots to use them.

Macron and Zelensky had dinner on Sunday night, as the Ukrainian leader visited several European countries to boost his weapons stockpile.

“In the coming weeks, France will train and equip several battalions with tens of armored vehicles and light tanks including AMX-10RC,” they said in a joint statement afterwards.

Macron refused to provide more details during the TF1 interview.

“We have decided to deliver more ammunition,” he said.

France had also decided to help “train their troops, the battalions that will be in charge of the counter-offensive” as well as “repair vehicles and cannons.”

“France still has the same position: to help Ukraine resist. A lot is at stake right now, because the success of this counter-offensive will be decisive for the capacity to build lasting peace,” he said.

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