Vladimir Putin with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in eastern Russia, September 2023 (Sky)

Monday’s Coverage: Zelenskiy — “Putin’s Ultimatums Are Not Negotiations”

Map: Institute for the Study of War


A senior Ukrainian MP has accused the US of “deliberately delaying” F-16 training for Ukraine’s pilots, to the point where there will be “fewer trained pilots than fighter jets”.

Ukraine is expected to receive the first F-16 fighter jets this summer from an 11-nation coalition formed in July 2023. Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway have so far pledged more than 70 F-16s.

But Oleksandra Ustinova, the head of Ukraine’s special parliamentary commission on arms and munitions, estimated that only 20 pilots — 12 in Denmark and 8 in Arizona — will complete the F-16 training program by the end of 2024.

A third training program in Romania has yet to begin, even though the center was officially opened in November.

An official in the US Department of Defense asserted that Ukrainian pilots are struggling with English-language skills and the flying program: “The training pipeline on F-16s is pretty meagre.”

Ustinova responded that the claims are ridiculous: “These are not arguments, they are excuses, and they keep coming up with them time and time again.”

She suggested, “This is totally political,” as US officials fear that the large-scale presence of F-16s in action in Ukraine could be viewed by Russia as the integration of the country into NATO.

Ustinova said that the fears are misguided, as the F-16s will be used primarily in a defensive capacity against Russia’s guided bombs.

This is one of the biggest problems we are facing right now. These bombs are huge — from 500 kilos to 1,500 kilos. They are launched air-to-ground and they are literally demolishing cities and villages.

So the only solution for us to bring them down is jet-to-jet. We look at the F-16 jets as a part of the air defence system.


Russian forces have beheaded a Ukrainian soldier in the Donetsk region in the east of the country, says Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin.

Kostin tweeted that Russian commanders have given orders “not to capture Ukrainian servicemen, but instead to kill them with inhuman cruelty – by beheading”.

The post was accompanied by a blurred picture of a military vehicle with a severed head on the hood.

Throughout their 28-month invasion, Russian troops have periodically executed Ukrainian prisoners of war.

See Ukraine War, Day 673: Another Russian Execution of POWs

The beheading was discovered by aerial reconnaissance of Donetsk. Kostin said:

This is terrible barbarism that has no place in the 21st century.

And this is more proof that the war crimes committed by the aggressor are not isolated incidents, but a planned strategy of the Russian regime.

These criminal orders were given at the level of battalion and company leadership of the occupying forces.


Ukrainian citizen Krystyna Liubashenko has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, by a Russian military court, for playing Ukraine’s national anthem and anti-war messages and flying balloons out of the window of her rented accommodation.

Liubashenko, a mother of two young daughters, was condemned after two days of hearings at the Second Western District Military Court in Moscow.

She was detained on May 8, 2023 on charges of “circulating military fakes”.


Three civilians were killed and at least 28 wounded by Russian attacks across Ukraine on Monday.

Missile strikes on apartment blocks wounded 22, including three children, in the Poltava region in east-central Ukraine. Sixteen structures, including nine multi-story residential buildings, were damaged.

In the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, one person was killed in Zvanivka and one injured in Chasiv Yar.

Two civilians were slain in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.


A Ukrainian drone attack has set oil depots on fire in the Rostov region in southwest Russia.

A source said the strike was on the Azovskaya and Azovnefteprodukt depots, with a total of 22 fuel tanks

Governor Vasily Golubev confirmed the strike on the site in the town of Azov, a port on the Sea of Azov. He said there are no casualties, and the blaze is being extinguished.

Ten Ukrainian drones attacked Russia’s largest steel plant, the Novolipetsk Iron and Steel Works, in the fourth strike this year.

The plant’s press service said there were no casualties and two UAVs were destroyed. It did not say what happened to the other eight, but claimed operations continue as normal.

In February, the plant was set afire, damaging a workshop and installations for the primary cooling of raw coke oven gas.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: En route to North Korea, Vladimir Putin has thanked Pyongyang for propping up his 28-month invasion of Ukraine.

Putin will arrive in North Korea late Tuesday, in his first trip since 2000, for talks with Kim Jong-un. The Russian will be accompanied by Defense Minister Andrey Belousov and 1st Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who oversees military matters.

In an article written for North Korea’s Nodong Sinmun (Workers’ Newspaper), Putin praised Pyongyang for “firmly supporting” the assault on Ukraine, and declared that he wanted to take relations to a higher level.

Pledging support to the Korean people “in their struggle for independence” in confrontation with the “insidious, dangerous and aggressive enemy”, Putin proclaimed:

Pyongyang was and remains our convinced like-minded person and supporter, ready to resolutely resist the desire of the collective West to prevent the establishment of a multipolar world order based on justice, mutual respect for sovereignty, and consideration of each other’s interests.

Kremlin staffer Yuri Ushakov stated, “The program is very full. A considerable amount of time will be dedicated to informal contacts between the leaders, as these negotiations…will contain the most important and most sensitive questions.”

Ushakov said “important documents” to be signed may include a “comprehensive strategic partnership treaty” setting out future cooperation, including over “security issues”.

From summer 2023, North Korea has supplied Russia with millions of Soviet-era artillery shells, helping Moscow maintain its 7:1 advantage on the frontline. Pyongyang has also provided electronic equipment, and remnants of its ballistic missiles have been found in Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and other civilian areas.

In return, Russia has assisted North Korea’s satellite programme; supplied arms and aircraft; stepped up economic aid; and given diplomatic support.

The arrangement was confirmed in September 2023 when Kim Jong-un met Putin in eastern Russia.

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Last week South Korean Defense minister Shin Wonsik said intelligence has confirmed North Korea’s transport to Russia of at least 10,000 shipping containers, with up to 4.8 million artillery shells.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg noted Russia’s growing dependence on authoritarian leaders: “Their closest friends and the biggest supporters of the Russian war effort – war of aggression – [are] North Korea, Iran, and China.”