F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots may start this summer - Dutch minister

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told Reuters in a June 12 interview published on June 12 that the Netherlands and other allies were hoping to start F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots this summer.

In May the U.S. and several European countries agreed to build an international coalition to help procure F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine and train Ukrainian fighter pilots.

"This summer is our ambition. And we'll see if that's realistic,"  Ollongren said, adding that the program would ideally be fully operational within six months.

The training program, which has been backed by the U.S., also includes Belgium and Luxembourg. France and the U.K. have also offered their assistance, Ollongren added.

According to the defense minister, Denmark is one possible location for the training program given that F-16 flight simulators are located there.

"It is a very strong weapons system. It's a very strong capability. But it's not going to be available anytime soon and President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, of course, knows that," Ollongren said.

Ukraine's allies are hoping that supplying weapons like more advanced fighter jets will not only bolster Ukraine's chances of victory in the war against Russia but also discourage any future aggression from Russia.

Two anonymous sources told Reuters that the training program is set to commence with two groups, each consisting of 12 Ukrainian pilots who already possess experience in operating MiG-29 fighter jets.

However, Ollongren did not share any such details on the potential size and scope of the training program.

Ukraine has received 14 MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and 13 from Slovakia but has been pushing for more advanced aircraft. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has previously said it requires at least 48 F-16 fighter jets to liberate territory from Russia.

During a press conference in late May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the Netherlands was "seriously considering" giving F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

ISW: Russia downplaying Ukrainian advances in Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia oblasts

Ukrainian forces made visually verified advances in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, which Russian forces have confirmed but continue to downplay, the Institute for the Study of War stated in its latest update on June 11.

According to the ISW, both Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukraine had made gains south of Velyka Novosilka in Donetsk Oblast between June 10 and 11, including liberating the villages of Makarivka, Neskuchne, Blahodatne, Storozheve, and Novodarivka.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar also said on June 11 that Ukraine's forces had advanced 300 to 1,500 meters in southern Ukraine.

Some Russian sources are downplaying Ukrainian advances by claiming battles are ongoing in "grey zones," or in contested areas, or in areas that Russia had not yet fully occupied before Ukrainian attacks in southern Ukraine, the ISW noted.

"Russian sources are likely referring to Ukrainian territorial advances through Russian defenses as capturing "grey zones" in order to downplay Ukrainian gains and omit reporting on Ukrainian forces breaking through defensive lines," the update read.

While Ukrainian forces liberated several villages, claims of a Ukrainian “breakthrough” are premature at this time, the ISW said.

Russian forces attack Donetsk Oblast, injuring 2

Russian forces attacked Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast for the second time on June 12, injuring two civilians, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported.

Two rockets hit the city at around 9:10 a.m., damaging a cultural center and a high-rise residential building, Kyrylenko said.

According to the governor, the latest strike has not resulted in any fatalities thus far, and those injured are receiving medical attention.

"Russians are erasing yet another Ukrainian city from the face of the earth, regardless of the people who still remain there. We put maximum effort into saving those in lethal danger," Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.

Russian forces conducted massive strikes against Avdiivka earlier this morning, as well as on June 11, killing one resident.

Two more people were injured in Ivanivske, and five settlements and two communities in Donetsk Oblast have been bombed over the past day.