The first planes should arrive this year, Vladimir Zelensky has said Belgium’s PM Alexander De Croo, Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky and Belgium’s Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder meet with Belgian F-16 pilots. © AFP / Eric Lalmand

Vladimir Zelensky and Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo have signed a security agreement, which includes a commitment by Brussels to supply Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets.

Ukraine is set to receive €977 million (around $1 billion) in military aid from Belgium during 2024 under a ten-year bilateral deal, Zelensky wrote on X (formerly Twitter) after his meeting with De Croo in Brussels on Tuesday.

Belgium joined a so-called ‘F-16 coalition’ with the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway last year. But the newly signed pact “for the first time… specifies the exact number of F-16 fighter jets – 30 – that will be delivered to Ukraine by 2028,” he wrote.

The first US-made warplanes from Belgium will arrive “already this year,” Zelensky said.

Under to the agreement, Brussels will also provide Kiev with armored vehicles, air defenses, mine-clearing equipment and other hardware, as well as with ammunition, he added.

During a joint news conference with Zelensky, De Croo insisted that the outcome of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is “crucial for our European interests, values and security.”

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“Although Russia’s invasion has turned into a war of attrition, the EU and Belgium will continue to stand side by side with you [Ukraine] in this war. It is our duty to help you win,” the Belgian prime minister said.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib earlier told RTL radio that the weapons that EU and NATO member states provide to Kiev are intended for use solely on Ukrainian territory, not for attacks inside Russia.

Zelensky, who is on a European tour, signed a similar security agreement with Spain On Monday. As part of the accord, Madrid pledged to allocate €1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of military aid to Ukraine this year and another €5 billion ($5.4 billion) by 2027.

Despite all the promises, Kiev has not yet received a single F-16 from its Western backers. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said earlier in May that the fourth-generation jets would start arriving in Ukraine in the coming months.

Reports in Western media have put the delays down to complications in the training of Ukrainian pilots, and the lack of proper airfields in the country.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the F-16s would be targeted by Russia at airfields in NATO countries if they operate from there.