En an interview with Lusa, the deputy chief of staff of the Ukrainian Presidency, Ihor Zhovkva, thanked Portugal, after the two-day visit that ended on Tuesday by the ministers of Foreign Affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, and Education, João Costa, the support provided by Portugal since the beginning of the Russian invasion, on February 24, 2022.

The politician, with foreign policy duties in the office of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensly, revealed that during the visit of the head of Portuguese diplomacy it was conveyed that this support should increase.

“We discussed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs that Portugal’s level of military support is quite modest: three tanks, after two years of aggression [russa], no more than a thousand rounds of ammunition. But this small amount is important, because every piece of military equipment and ammunition counts,” said Ihor Zhovkva, adding: “We hope that after the elections [legislativas em Portugal, em 10 de março]the level of support does not decrease but increases, because we have more support from Portugal”.

In the interview with Lusa, the Ukrainian official also mentioned Portugal’s participation in the international coalition for the supply of North American F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, which provides for the training of pilots and maintenance technicians, but which should now include sending of these combat aircraft, similar to what the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Norway have already announced.

“We are grateful for the fact that Portugal is part of the F-16 coalition and has participated in terms of training and training not only for pilots, but also for technicians and engineers, which is very important. But we would certainly like Portugal to deliver of F-16”, he stated.

The Ukrainian authorities say they are aware that Portugal does not have a large number of these combat aircraft, however, “as in the example of tanks, it would be good to have at least several of them, it would be very symbolic if Portugal wanted to supply these devices”, and that, after the legislative elections, this step can be taken.

Ihor Zhovkva pointed out that, since Portugal is part of the international coalition, the ultimate objective of this group is to supply F16: “Therefore, it would be very good if Portugal joined us and became one of the top five countries to make deliveries”.

At the end of his visit to Ukraine, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that Portugal “will very soon announce a new aid package corresponding to the needs of the moment” of the Kyiv authorities.

The head of Portuguese diplomacy did not specify the type of aid that is being prepared, referring to an announcement to be made by the Minister of Defense, Helena Carreiras, who, he said, “has made very great efforts” in this regard.

According to data from the Ministry of Defense provided to Lusa at the end of December, Portugal has delivered to Ukraine, since the first quarter of 2022, three Leopard 2A6 combat vehicles, 28 M113 armored personnel carriers, as well as other military equipment, including rifles automatic weapons, heavy machine guns, protective and communications equipment, medical and sanitary material, artillery ammunition, unmanned aerial systems and generators.

The most recent support planned involves three M113 and two M577 armored personnel carriers in relief and medical support versions.

During his visit to Kyiv, João Gomes Cravinho reiterated Portugal’s availability to provide training in F-16 fighters to Ukrainian forces, but did not indicate whether the training was already taking place, sending, once again, clarifications to the minister of Defense, did not even point out the possibility of delivering the combat planes, however, leaving the Ukrainian authorities with the idea that no changes are expected in the commitment of Portuguese support to Kyiv after the legislative ones.

For Ihor Zhovkva, the introduction of the F-16 fighter jets, long requested by the Kyiv authorities, could lead to a change in the conflict in several dimensions, firstly because, “first of all, when you launch a counteroffensive, you must have air protection”, which does not exist and did not exist in the large-scale operations of Ukrainian forces in their military initiative in the second half of last year with a view to pushing back Russian troops, but without major territorial gains.

On the other hand, he explained, the F-16s and other equipment can help in the air defense of the country inside Ukraine, due to the lack of coverage throughout the territory, and the fighters can be used to intercept cruise missiles and ‘ drones’.

“It would really be a great support for our armed forces”, he commented, in the mission of “defending and liberating the territory”, refusing to give further details about the introduction of F-16s in operations with the justification that it is not military personnel nor should they share the content of war cabinet meetings.

“It is the task of diplomats and the task of our Government to look for new types of weapons and that is what we are doing. If the Army, the Armed Forces are asking for F-16s, we do our job”, he declared.

Still on Portugal, the person responsible for the Presidency mentioned the importance of the presence of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Education on Monday at the Reconstruction Forum of Jitomir, a region 150 kilometers west of Kyiv, and where the Portuguese Government has committed to recovery of a reference school, Liceu 25, destroyed by Russian bombing in March 2022.

Ihor Zhovkva recalled his role in the first contacts since then with the Portuguese authorities that led to the Jitomir project and reinforced the idea also highlighted by João Costa and João Gomes Cravinho, in their visit to Liceu 25, that Portugal can not only rebuild schools as buildings but to restructure the secondary education system in Ukraine”.

The Presidency’s deputy chief of staff also praised the reception of over 60 thousand Ukrainian refugees in Portugal since the Russian invasion, who joined an already existing diaspora, noting that these people live in good conditions, but, “at the same time , and even before the Russian aggression, contributed a lot to the economy”, similar to what happens in almost all European countries.

“Now there are Ukrainians in all European countries. They are hard workers, they speak their languages, they are well integrated into societies. We hope they can return home after the victory [contra a Rússia]but it is a sign of Ukraine’s real integration into the European Union”, he maintained.

In this integration journey, Ihor Zhovkva also welcomed the Portuguese support, recalling the visits of the Prime Minister, António Costa, and the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to Kyiv, and hoping that the new executive to emerge from the next legislative elections will continue alongside Ukraine.

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Source: https://www.noticiasaominuto.com/mundo/2498342/kyiv-pede-a-portugal-cacas-f-16-e-aumento-de-apoio-bastante-modesto

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