Ukraine war: Drones and missiles shot down, alliance for Ukraine’s F-16s, Wagner Mali sanctioned

Ukraine claims shooting down Russian drones and missiles overnight

Ukraine shot down ten missiles and 25 drones launched by Russia overnight attacks in the cities of Kyiv and Dnipro and eastern regions, Ukrainian officials said on Friday.

The Ukrainian air force said it had shot down 10 missiles fired from the Caspian Sea, 23 Iranian-made Shahed drones and two reconnaissance drones, according to US-based news agency Reuters.

A total of 17 missiles and 31 drones had been launched starting at about 10 pm local time on Thursday, the Ukrainian side claimed.

The attacks continued until the early hours of Friday with several drones and missiles hitting the targets in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk. The officials have not confirmed any deaths so far. 

“It was a very difficult night,” Serhiy Lysak, the Dnipropetrovsk regional governor, said on the Telegram. “It was loud – the enemy launched a mass attack on the region with missiles and drones. Dnipro has suffered.”

Lysak said several infrastructures were damaged by the attacks, including civilian houses, cars, and companies, including a transport company and a gas station. 

US says allies will unite to train Ukrainians on F-16 jets

European allies are developing a coordinated program to train Ukrainian forces on the F-16 fighter jet, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday.

Austin said the allies recognize that in addition to training, Ukraine will also need to be able to sustain and maintain the aircraft and have enough munitions.

But Pentagon leaders warned that it will be a costly and complex task and won’t be a magic solution to the war.

“The Russians have a thousand fourth and fifth-generation fighters, so if you’re going to contest Russia in the air, you’re going to need a substantial amount of fourth and fifth-generation fighters,” said Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Providing 10 F-16s could cost $2 billion including maintenance, according to Milley.

He said F-16s have a future role as part of Ukraine’s air capabilities, but it’s “going to take a considerable length of time to build up an air force that’s the size and scope and scale that would be necessary.”

The US’s European allies have been vocal in their support for the fighter jet training in recent days.

Wagner Group in Mali sanctioned for alleged arms trafficking

Russian paramilitary Wagner Group’s leader in Mali was sanctioned on Thursday for allegedly bolstering Russia’s weaponry in the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

The US said Wagner’s local official Ivan Maslov could be working to buy mines, drones and other weapons systems from foreign suppliers for delivery to Russian fighters in Ukraine.

US Treasury Department said there were indications that Kremlin was trying to use the West African nation as a way-station for arms shipments. 

The suspicions, however, are yet to be proven according to state department spokesman Matthew Miller. 

“We have not seen, as of yet, any indications that these acquisitions have been finalized or executed, but we are monitoring the situation closely,” Miller said earlier this week. 

The Wagner Group has brokered deals in Mali, the Central African Republic, Libya and elsewhere, providing security for what are often autocratic national leaders, frequently in exchange for a share of local mining of gold and other resources.

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