The head of Kiev’s air force, Sergey Golubtsov, previously stated that some F-16s donated to his country will be based abroad Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Defense Andrey Kartapolov © Vladimir Fedorenko; RIA Novosti

F-16 fighter jets and any airfields they are based at will be legitimate targets for the Russian military if they participate in combat missions against Moscow’s forces, the chairman of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, Andrey Kartapolov, has warned.

The comments come as Kiev prepares to receive the first delivery of US-made fighter jets from its Western backers, after Ukrainian pilots were trained to fly them.

In a statement to RIA Novosti published on Monday, Kartapolov clarified that if the F-16s “are not used for their intended purpose” or are simply held in storage at foreign airbases with the intent to transfer them to Ukraine, where they will be equipped, maintained, and flown from Ukrainian airfields, then Russia would have no claims against its “former partners” and would not target them.

However, if the jets take off from foreign bases and carry out sorties and strikes against Russian forces, both the fighter planes and the airfields they are stationed at will be “legitimate targets,” according to Kartapolov.

“As for [our ability] to shoot [them] down, we can shoot down anyone, anywhere,” the MP insisted.

Kartapolov’s statement comes after the chief of aviation of Ukraine’s Air Force Command, Sergey Golubtsov, stated in an interview with Radio Liberty on Sunday that some of the F-16 fighter jets donated to Kiev by the West would be stationed at foreign airbases.

He explained that only a portion of the jets would be stationed directly on Ukrainian territory, corresponding to the number of pilots trained to operate the aircraft. The other jets would be kept in reserve at “safe airbases” abroad so that they are not targeted by the Russian military.

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Golubtsov stated that so far four countries have agreed to transfer F-16s to Ukraine, namely Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands. While he did not specify exactly how many aircraft would be donated, he claimed it was between 30 and 40 planes, with potentially more to come in the future.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also warned that Moscow would perceive the deliveries of F-16 fighters to Ukraine as a nuclear threat, given that the jets have long been used as part of the US-led bloc’s joint nuclear missions.

At the same time, the minister stressed that the US-designed jets would not change the situation on the battlefield, and would be shot down and destroyed like any other foreign weapons supplied to Ukraine. (RT)