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Ukraine live briefing: Zelensky hails ‘historic’ pledge of F-16 jets; 2 injured in Moscow drone strike

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sits in an F-16 fighter jet at an airbase in Denmark on Aug. 20. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called a pledge by the Netherlands and Denmark to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine “powerful” and “historic” as he continued his diplomatic tour of several European countries.

Russian officials said two people were injured after drones flew over the Moscow region early Monday and were destroyed by air defense systems. The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the attempted strikes, which disrupted air traffic around the capital. Moscow has increasingly been targeted by drones in recent days.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Denmark will send 19 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine “when the conditions for such a transfer are met,” including the proper training of Ukrainian pilots, it said Sunday in a joint statement with the Netherlands. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, at a news conference with Zelensky on Sunday, did not specify how many F-16s his country will send Ukraine but said it has 42 in stock. He said some of the aircraft in stock may have to be updated. Zelensky has long pleaded with allies for the American-made fighter jets to help Ukrainian forces, who often fly in older, Soviet-era aircraft, repel attacks from the more sophisticated Russian fleet.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it thwarted two attempted drone attacks over the Moscow region early Monday. The first drone was detected around 6:50 a.m. and jammed electronically. The ministry said the drone “lost control” and “crashed” northwest of Moscow without harming anyone. The second drone was destroyed shortly after 8:15 a.m. over the Istra district of the Moscow region, the ministry said. Moscow’s regional governor, Andrey Vorobyov, said drone debris fell on a house in Istra, wounding two people and damaging three other houses. The Washington Post could not independently verify the reports.

The airspace over Moscow was temporarily restricted following the attempted drone strikes “to ensure the safety of civil aircraft flights,” Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport said early Monday. It said 45 commercial flights and two cargo flights were redirected from four Moscow-area airports to airports in Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and St. Petersburg. Traffic at the Moscow airports was back to normal at 9 a.m., it said. Similar incidents disrupted air traffic around the capital on Friday and Sunday.

Dozens of Ukrainian pilots, engineers and others will be trained to use F-16 fighter jets in Denmark, Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said. In a telethon on Monday, Ignat said another group of Ukrainian pilots will receive long-term military flight training in the United Kingdom that could last “up to two years.” In separate comments to Radio Svoboda, Ignat said Ukraine needs 128 fighter jets to fully replace its fleet of older aircraft.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said it is “highly likely” that Russia will form a new military unit “to focus on defensive security operations in the south of Ukraine.” The ministry in its daily intelligence assessment Monday said that the new formation, which it called the “18th Combined Arms Army,” is “likely to consist mostly of mobilised personnel,” with the goal of freeing up “more experienced units to fight on key axes.”

Russian attacks in the Kherson region killed at least two people and injured three others, its governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, said Monday on Telegram.

Rescue operations for a deadly Saturday attack on Chernihiv have ended, with seven dead and 156 injured, Ukraine’s operational armed forces said, adding that 66 residential buildings were damaged. In his nightly address, Zelensky called the incident a “terrorist attack” and said the military would “respond tangibly.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned Russia’s strike on Chernihiv as “cowardly and deliberate” in a social media post. Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the incident a “horrific missile attack on innocent civilians.”

Sweden has no plans to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, the country’s prime minister said. Ulf Kristersson told Swedish broadcaster TV4 on Monday that Sweden needs its Saab JAS 39 Gripen planes for its own defense and must balance this reality against Ukraine’s demands for the aircraft. “We will do everything we can to support them also with aircraft. But right now there are no new commitments to provide Swedish aircraft to Ukraine,” Kristersson told TV4. Zelensky visited Sweden last week and asked for Gripen planes. Sweden previously agreed to let Ukrainian pilots test the Gripens.

Russia’s foreign minister said “tectonic shifts are taking place in the world” that will lead to “a more just multipolar world order.” Sergei Lavrov, writing for South Africa’s Ubuntu Magazine, said the members of BRICS — a group of emerging market economies made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — have an important role to play in this new world order. South Africa is hosting the yearly BRICS summit, which begins Tuesday, and Lavrov is expected to attend. As The Post has reported, South African officials said last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over alleged war crimes in Ukraine, has agreed not to attend the summit, ending a diplomatic quandary for South Africa: As a member of the ICC, it would have had an obligation to arrest Putin upon his arrival in the country.

Zelensky, on a visit to Denmark, said that “all of Russia’s neighbors are under threat if Ukraine does not prevail.” In a speech to Danish lawmakers in Copenhagen on Monday, Zelensky thanked Denmark for its military support of Ukraine and argued that “democracies of the world, each of them, can become a target, either for missiles, or for mercenaries, or for destabilization” if Russia wins the war.

Ukraine is exploiting President Biden’s cluster bomb gamble: A few feet away from a pile of U.S.-made cluster bombs, a group of Ukrainian military men listen to an earsplitting boom go off some 50 times a day — their way of trying to hold back advancing Russian forces, John Hudson and Anastacia Galouchka report.

Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine is the most controversial arms transfer of his presidency. Human Rights Watch called the move “profoundly troubling,” and Germany, France, Canada, the Netherlands and other NATO allies publicly opposed it.

But the deployment of the weapon has been met with little hesitation inside Ukraine’s government and military, which provided The Post rare access to the equipment and soldiers using the notoriously imprecise munitions.

Serhiy Morgunov, Mary Ilyushina and Robyn Dixon contributed to this report.

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