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France to transfer Mirage-2000 fighter jets to Ukraine: Macron

Macron is due to meet Zelensky in Paris on Friday (Ludovic MARIN)
Macron is due to meet Zelensky in Paris on Friday (Ludovic MARIN)

France will transfer Mirage-2000 fighter jets to Ukraine and train their Ukrainian pilots as part of a new military cooperation with Kyiv as it fights the Russian invasion, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday.

"Tomorrow we will launch a new cooperation and announce the transfer of Mirage 2000-5" fighter jets to Ukraine made by French manufacturer Dassault and train their Ukrainian pilots in France, Macron told French TV.

Macron said he would offer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when the two meet for talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Friday that the pilots be trained from this summer.

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"You need normally between five-six months. So by the end of the year there will be pilots. The pilots will be trained in France," he said.

He did not specify how many of the fighter jets would be delivered. Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry did not elaborate.

Macron said Ukraine was facing a "huge challenge" training soldiers as it sought to mobilise tens of thousands more troops to go to the front.

He said France would equip and train an entire brigade of 4,500 Ukrainian soldiers so they can defend themselves when they return to Ukraine from training.

Kyiv has been pushing Europe to increase its military support, with Russia in recent months gaining the upper hand on the battlefield.

Zelensky's visit to France, where on Thursday he attended ceremonies for the 80th anniversary of D-Day and crossed paths with US President Joe Biden, is seen as a crucial time to drum up more help.

Macron said Ukraine has asked its Western allies to send military instructors to train its forces on its soil to meet the growing challenge to build up 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.

There had been speculation that Macron could swiftly announce the sending of French instructors to Ukraine, even after his talks with Zelensky on Friday.

But he said France and its allies would come together and decide and also emphasised that he did not believe any such moves by Paris were "escalatory".

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

sjw/imm