With deliveries of the F-16 fighter jet not expected until next year, Ukraine has resumed a push to obtain Swedish Gripen warplanes as it tries to modernize its air force and secure an advantage against Russia in the skies.
“We are getting closer to the fact that Gripen fighters will appear in our sky,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who traveled to Sweden over the weekend and reached a more tangible agreement on Saturday involving the supply of armored vehicles, said in his overnight address.
Ukraine has received Soviet-era jets from Poland and Slovakia, but air superiority in the war remains up for grabs, with neither Kyiv nor Moscow decisively dominating air space since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022. And though Ukraine is on track to receive American-made F-16 jets, this won’t happen in time to play a role in its current counteroffensive.
Mr. Zelensky cast his talks on the Gripens as a breakthrough and said he would soon share more details. But in a sign of how cautious Ukraine’s allies have been in providing lethal military aid, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden did not mention the combat planes during a news conference with Mr. Zelensky on Saturday.
Sweden has so far refused to send Gripens to Ukraine, with officials saying that the jets — built by Saab — are needed to defend its own borders. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Sweden, and neighboring Finland, to join NATO. Finland has since become a member of the alliance, but Sweden’s application has been held up by Turkey.
On Saturday, Sweden and Ukraine announced a preliminary agreement covering production, repair and training for Sweden’s CV90 infantry fighting vehicle. So far in the war, Mr. Kristersson said, Sweden has given $2.2 billion euros, or about $2.4 billion, in aid to Ukraine, including the CV90s, Leopard tanks, Archer artillery systems and mine-clearing equipment.
The Swedish leader also offered condolences for the Russian attack on Chernihiv on Saturday that, according to Ukrainian officials, killed at least seven people and injured nearly 150 others.
Early on Sunday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that its forces had intercepted Ukrainian drone attacks in three areas: Moscow, Belgorod and Novgorod, where a military aircraft had been damaged. It was not possible to immediately verify those claims.
The drone claims were a reminder of how the war is increasingly encompassing new battlefields, as well as of why countries like Sweden have been on alert for almost 18 months.
“No task is more important than supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom and territorial integrity,” Mr. Kristersson, the Swedish leader, said. “Ukraine is fighting for us, for all European democracies.”