Zelensky blasts West over F-16 pilot training as Putin threatens nuke disaster

Volodymyr Zelensky has hit out at Western allies, questioning why there have been delays in the training of Ukrainian pilots in F-16 fighter jets.

This comes against the backdrop of heightened concerns that the Kremlin will engineer a nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

During a joint news conference with the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Kyiv, the Ukrainian president expressed his frustration about the slow start to the training and the lack of certainty around when it will commence.

He said: “I think that some partners are delaying this process – why they do this I have no idea”.

By “some partners” it is unclear who Mr Zelensky is referring to. The UK launched Operation Interflex in June 2022 with the purpose of preparing Ukrainian soldiers for the frontline with Russia.

According to the MoD: “To date, some 17,000 Ukrainians have gone through the five-week training package and in the year 2023 to 2024 the UK is on track to deliver another 20,000.”

President Zelensky also said that Russia is plotting to attack the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in a dangerous attempt to bend the West to its will.

He said: “There is a serious threat because Russia is technically ready to provoke a local explosion at the station that could cause an emission of dangerous substances in the air.

“We are clearly communicating, we discussed the need with our partners so everyone understands why Russia is doing this.”

Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik echoed those warnings. In an interview with Sky News she said that Ukraine was “preparing for a nuclear explosion”.

Meanwhile the Kremlin dismissed the suggestion that it is intending to cause a blast at the facility.

However Ms Rudik warned: “I still cannot process that in the 21st century this is what is happening. We are preparing for a nuclear explosion and the whole world is watching and there is nothing that can be done.

She branded Russia preventing UN officials from entering specific areas of the plant as an “unprecedented” move and added that it is “extremely hurtful” that a similar situation like the collapse of the Kakhovka dam could be “repeated”.

She added: “This is why it cannot be said ‘we need more time, we need to look further’.”

Russia is using the alleged threat of an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as a “bargaining chip and a way to threaten the world,” she said.

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Pedro Sánchez, in an address to Ukraine’s parliament that was met with several standing ovations, vowed to continue to back Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression

He said: “We’ll be with you as long as it takes.”

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