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    France changes course, says it will sell Mirage fighters to Ukraine

    By Mark Moran,


    June 6 (UPI) -- France has announced plans to begin selling Mirage fighter jets to war-embattled Ukraine "by the end of the year," French President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday.
    A Mirage 2000 fighter jet prepares to take off at an air base in Hsinchu, Taiwan (2022). France announced Thursday it will sell an undisclosed number of the jets to Ukraine and train as many as 4,500 pilots. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE

    Macron made the announcement on the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when U.S. and allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944, turning the tide in World War II and marking the beginning of the end of Nazi totalitarianism in Europe.

    "Tomorrow we will launch a new cooperation and announce the transfer of Mirage 2000 [jets], which help Ukraine protect its skies," Macron said during an interview with broadcaster TF1 in the northern city of Caen, coinciding with the start of an official visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky .

    Macron said he intends for as many as 4,500 Ukrainian pilots to be trained on Mirage 2000 fighter jets in France over a six month period, beginning as soon as this summer.

    He did not, however, say how many fighters he intends to send to Ukraine, and the defense ministry did not elaborate on its plans. Macron said he would brief Zelensky further in a private meeting on Friday at the Elysée Palace.

    "We've always had the same philosophy, we help the Ukrainians to fight," Macron added.

    Macron said Ukraine has asked Western allies to send military instructors to train its forces on its soil to meet the growing demand for troops.

    Zelensky has said that Russia is beginning to gain the upper hand on the battlefield and needs international help to build up Ukrainian troop numbers.

    "The Ukrainian president and his minister of defence asked all the allies -- 48 hours ago in an official letter -- saying 'we need you to train us quicker and that you do this on our soil,'" Macron said.

    Zelensky has made repeated pleas for additional arms, firepower and other military assistance from Western nations, including the United States, which recently passed more aid and, by some reports , totals at least $175 million, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

    This is a change of direction for France, which had, until now, stopped short of sending Mirage fighter jets to Ukraine, and had instead suggested to Kyiv that its defense forces should focus on acquiring F-16s, which are more common that the Mirage.

    World leaders and veterans from allied nations had gathered in commemoration of the 80th year of D-Day, which provided the backdrop for Macron to make the fighter jet announcement. U.S. President Joe Biden and Macron drew comparisons between the fight against Nazism in World War II and Ukraine's battle against the current Russian invasion.

    Zelensky is scheduled to meet with defense manufacturers, Macron and the French National Assembly on Friday.

    Macron told France 24 that the move signals a new attitude of partnership with Kyiv.

    "We are working with our partners and we will act on the basis of a collective decision," he said.

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