Ukraine’s foreign minister has insisted that Western fighter jets would not be used by his country to strike targets within Russia.
Speaking to Sky News at the United Nations in New York, Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine needs the jets to end the war and push Russia back beyond its eastern borders.
“We’re using weapons which we receive from partners to strike Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” Mr Kuleba said.
Asked if he could guarantee that Ukraine would not use Western jets and other long-range weapons to bomb inside Russia itself, the foreign minister said: “We can guarantee that we will be using Western weapons to liberate Ukrainian territories.”
Western nations remain unwilling to provide Ukraine with fast jets, despite the clear advantage they would bring, because of a lingering fear that it will precipitate a widening of the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.
This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the Western deployment of longer-range weapons would give him the justification to strike back further to the West, possibly beyond Ukraine into eastern Europe.
US President Joe Biden has arrived back in Washington DC after a trip to Kyiv and Warsaw that White House officials believe to be a significant success.
The international diplomatic focus has shifted to New York, where diplomats from the 193 member countries of the United Nations are gathering at the body’s Manhattan headquarters for a vote in the General Assembly.
The emergency special session of the General Assembly will culminate in a vote on a resolution underscoring the urgency to find a lasting peace in Ukraine.
The resolution’s text, drafted by Ukraine in consultation with allies, and seen by Sky News, will be voted on at the end of the session this afternoon.
The simple wording is an attempt, say western diplomats, to ensure as much support as possible. About 140 votes in favour would be seen as a success.
It is expected to call for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
Ukraine will need fighter jets to see off Russian threat, Poland’s president tells Sky News
Adam Parsons: NATO’s focus is on heavy weapons and training – not sending fighter jets
Ukraine’s backers struggle to keep up with demand of munitions in race against Russia
Military analyst Sean Bell: Invasion has shattered Russia’s illusion of invincibility
‘No two equal sides’ in this war’
Speaking in the chamber, Mr Kuleba said: “The problem is that in this war there are no two equal sides. There is an aggressor and a victim.
“I understand that there are still some countries that do not want to take Ukraine’s side for various reasons. But it’s not about that. It’s about taking the side of the United Nations Charter. It’s about taking the side of international law.”
America’s ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said: “One year ago, Russia launched this illegal, unprovoked full scale invasion into Ukraine … President Putin chose war.
“This was an illegal unprovoked attack on Ukraine. But it was also an assault on the United Nations.”
She concluded: “This vote will go down in history.
“On the one-year anniversary of this conflict, we will see where the nations of the world stand on the matter of peace in Ukraine.”
‘A just peace’
Britain’s Ambassador Barbara Woodward added: “Every country in this chamber would fight to survive the same way.
“What Ukraine really wants, indeed what we all want, what we have continually called for, is a just peace.”
As ever with the United Nations body, the vote is symbolic and reflects global diplomatic opinion rather than any concrete directives for action.
Tomorrow, foreign ministers will gather for a meeting of the Security Council.
America’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will join other Security Council members, including Russia and China, around the table in the chamber for what promises to be a fiery exchange of views.
Focus will be on the extent to which China’s support for Russia has shifted in Mr Putin’s favour. China’s top diplomat Wang Yi has been in Moscow this week.
Mr Blinken warned on Monday that China could be preparing to supply Russia with weapons. This would represent a fundamental shift in the conflict, evolving the war into more of a proxy east-west world war.
The level of unity among western nations will be evident too. There remains a divergence between those advocating caution and those who want to ‘get the war won’ by arming Ukraine for a win instead of prolonging a stalemate.