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A sex scandal in Ukraine’s army and delayed F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots

A sex scandal in Ukraine’s army and delayed F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots: Highlights from Western mass media

A sex scandal in Ukraine’s army and delayed F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots: Highlights from Western mass media

Ukraine will likely have to endure another year without F-16 fighter jets since training for Ukrainian pilots faces delays. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba acknowledged that Ukraine needs to counter Russian influence in places like Africa to expand the circle of countries backing it.

Meanwhile, Hanna Maliar pledged to investigate cases of alleged sexual harassment in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and experts on sanctions question the possibility to stop Russia from importing Mestern-made microchips.

The Page offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the August 7–11, 2023, business week.

F-16 jets for Ukraine: Why the training of pilots is delayed

A first group of six Ukrainian pilots is not expected to complete training on the U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets before next summer, The Washington Post reports, citing its sources among Ukrainian government and military officials.

Ukraine has asked allies for fighter jets since the early days of Russia’s invasion, but it was only this May that the U.S. President Joe Biden said he backed the idea of training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 jets, and supported the transfer of the planes by other countries.

F-16 fighter jets flying over Belgium on July 19. Photo: Getty Images

F-16 fighter jets flying over Belgium on July 19. Photo: Getty Images

Denmark and the Netherlands volunteered to lead a training effort, prompting hopes among officials in Kyiv that the planes would be defending Ukrainian airspace by as early as September. But after the start of training was pushed back several times, Ukraine will now probably have to endure another year without the U.S.-made fighters.

Just six pilots will go through the first round of training, with two other pilots identified as reserve candidates, according to two Ukrainian officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Though the pilots are already fluent in English, they must first attend four months of English lessons in Britain to learn terminology associated with the jets. That instruction will occur along with ground staff who may be less proficient in English.

That pushes back the start of combat training, which is expected to take six months, to January, the Ukrainian officials said. A second group of about the same size would be ready six months after that, or roughly the end of next year.

Another 20 Ukrainian pilots are ready to study English, U.S. officials said, adding that most of Ukraine’s best pilots are expected to remain in Ukraine, where they are flying sorties in Soviet-developed planes and firing French SCALP and British Storm Shadow missiles.

Brigadier General Serhii Holubtsov, aviation chief for Ukraine’s air force, told The Washington Post that, in between their sorties, Ukrainian pilots have been taking English classes online for the past year.

Quote"Additional specialized training will be provided to flight and ground personnel on the terminology required for the F-16 training," Holubtsov said. "It was not possible to train pilots and other personnel in Ukraine in this terminology due to the lack of experience in working with such terminology."

Meanwhile, the Dutch government is working with Romania on setting up a training center in Romania. A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant Colonel Mark van de Beek, said that the key challenge was the shortage of F-16 trainers in Europe. The Netherlands, for instance, is in the process of transitioning to the more advanced F-35.

Quote"To train a fighter pilot you also need fighter pilots," Van de Beek said. "That is expensive and a capability that smaller countries don’t have much anymore."

Ukrainian officials have frequently questioned why the United States, with a far larger pool of trainers, doesn’t conduct the training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where the Air Force trains some 400 F-16 pilots a year. Meanwhile, U.S. officials say that Ukraine has put forward only eight pilots for training.

Quote"There are only a handful of pilots in Ukraine who are ready to begin training and about two dozen others who we're told need additional English language training before they can move forward," a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

Vying for Africa: Ukrainian investments versus Russian mercenaries

Saudi-hosted talks last weekend were a "breakthrough" for Kyiv, said Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in an interview with Reuters.

The minister said the number of countries interested in participating in meetings such as the Jeddah gathering has "increased dramatically" in recent weeks, adding the events lay a crucial foundation for future talks on Ukraine's vision for peace.

Dmytro Kuleba on July 17. Photo: Getty Images

Dmytro Kuleba on July 17. Photo: Getty Images

Quote"We are fully satisfied with the dynamics of this process," he said."I believe the meeting in Jeddah was a breakthrough because for the first time, we brought together countries representing (the) entire world, not only Europe and North America."

Kuleba acknowledged that countering Russian influence in places like Africa — where ties to Moscow date back to the Soviet era — remains a challenge as Ukraine seeks to broaden the range of countries behind it. During the full-scale war, the minister has made three visits to the continent, offering cooperation in areas such as education, construction, and digitalisation.

Quote"Unlike Russia, we want to invest in Africa what will benefit both them and us, because Russia's biggest investment in Africa is Wagner," Kuleba said. "And this is the investment in (the) insecurity of Africa."

Russia's refusal last month to extend a pact allowing Ukrainian grains to leave Black Sea ports has also hit the continent hard. During a summit in St. Petersburg last month, African leaders pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to pursue their own plan for peace. But Kuleba said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the only man in the world who could convince Putin to return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Sexual harassment in the army: the deputy minister pledges an investigation

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, has vowed to help pursue army commanders credibly accused of sexual harassment through the courts. This happened after a Ukrainian female soldier speaking to the Guardian alleged that a commander in a combat unit had ordered female subordinates to have sex with him or face their husbands being sent to the front..

The allegations were made by a platoon sergeant, Nadiya Haran, 27, who told the Guardian that she felt forced to ask to be transferred from her previous unit after senior officers refused to tackle the cases she had raised.

Quote"I left [my brigade] because there was this person high up the food chain who would harass women and I know these women," she had said. "Some of them are my subordinates who I’m responsible for. They were harassed by the same person who basically told them if they refuse to have sex with him, he’s sending their husbands who were also in the brigade to their deaths. I was told to shut up because he did not harass me personally."

Hanna Maliar called on those who claimed to have been targeted to meet her and said she would investigate allegations that women in the armed forces had been threatened with being sent to psychiatric units for raising allegations of sexual harassment or seeking to transfer to a combat unit.

A Ukrainian service member operating a drone near Kreminna, August 9. Photo: Getty Images

A Ukrainian service member operating a drone near Kreminna, August 9. Photo: Getty Images

Quote"I tell all women in the armed forces to write me a statement. I will contact the police and bring the police by the hand to investigate this. Give me all the information, I will personally contact the police. These things are unacceptable; a woman cannot be treated like this. I will protect them."

There are about 60,000 women working in the military, 42,000 of whom are soldiers. Of those, 5,000 are fighting on the frontline.

Talking to the Guardian, a number of individuals, and their representatives in the veterans organization Veteranka, had also also complained of a lack of female combat uniforms and protective armor. According to Hanna Maliar, a new uniform for female soldiers has now been approved, and a supplier who can provide this volume of uniforms is being sought.

The Ministry of Defense is also looking to develop protective vests for women, because the standards of those on the market are not sufficiently high.

Depriving Russia of Western-made microchips: Is the mission impossible?

According to the BBC, on Tuesday, the U.K. government announced the "largest ever U.K. action" targeting Russia's access to foreign military supplies. The sanctions included businesses and individuals in Turkey, Dubai, Slovakia and Switzerland.

The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, said the measures would "further diminish Russia's arsenal and close the net on supply chains propping up Putin's now struggling defense industry."

The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly (left), and the U.S. State Secretary, Antony Blinken. Photo: Getty Images

The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly (left), and the U.S. State Secretary, Antony Blinken. Photo: Getty Images

But after successive waves of sanctions, Russia still has the parts it needs to keep its war machine going, including microchips. Much of the Kremlin's weaponry, including ballistic and cruise missiles, makes heavy use of electronic components manufactured in the US, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Israel, and China.

In June, the Kyiv School of Economy, in association with the Yermak-McFaul International Working Group on Russian Sanctions, analyzed 1,057 separate foreign components found in 58 pieces of captured Russian weaponry. It found that microchips and processors accounted for about half of the components and that around two thirds of them were made by American companies.

To procure them, Russia uses an elaborate network of third country intermediaries. This April, the Japanese media outlet Nikkei found that 75% of US microchips were being supplied to Russia through Hong Kong or China. Other investigators have found that key components have been bought ostensibly for non-military use, for example in Russia's space program.

According to the KSE & Yermak McFaul report, there are numerous companies willing to take substantial risks to fulfill Russian procurement demands. They are incorporated in the Czech Republic, Serbia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, India, and China.

In May, the U.K., EU, and U.S. jointly published a list of 38 "common high priority items" and warned companies to "undertake due diligence to ensure that the end destination of these products is not Russia."

Western officials say they are making progress and point to a Turkish presidential decree, earlier this year, which halted the transit to Russia of certain goods that had been sanctioned.

They also point out that while Russia still manages to import significant quantities of semiconductors, they're not always of the highest quality.

Meanwhile, Ben Hilgenstock, a senior economist at KSE, said chasing third party intermediaries was "a game of cat and mouse," involving a myriad of little known companies.

Quote"I'm not sure how successfully we're going to play the game if we're sanctioning five companies," he told the BBC. "It won't solve the problem because it's just too easy to create some new entity elsewhere."
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