NATO-member Norway will donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, whose forces are embroiled in a difficult counteroffensive against Russia, Norwegian media said Thursday. The reports came as Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was visiting Kyiv.
There was no official confirmation of the plan, which was reported by Norwegian broadcasters NRK and TV2.
Norway would be the third European country after the Netherlands and Denmark to donate F-16 planes.
Ukraine has long pleaded for the sophisticated fighter jets to give it a combat edge. It recently launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s forces without air cover, placing its troops at the mercy of Russian aviation and artillery.
But Gahr Støre didn't confirm the media reports, making no mention of any F-16 handover in a speech on the occasion of Ukraine's Independence Day.
In February, oil-rich Norway announced that it is donating $7 billion to Kyiv as part of a five-year support package, making Norway one of the world’s biggest donors to Ukraine.
The money will be split evenly between military and humanitarian assistance over five years, broken down to $1.4 billion annually.
On Thursday, Norway announced it would donate anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, saying "air defense is critical to Ukraine’s ability to protect both the civilian population and front-line infrastructure and military units against any type of Russian air attack."
"This is one of the largest Norwegian donations of military material to Ukraine to date," Gahr Støre said in a statement.
The Norwegian government has long said it is considering sending F-16s to Ukraine. In January, Norway received the first of the 52 F-35s it has ordered. The new fighter jets are to replace Norway's fleet of F-16.
Last week, th e Netherlands and Denmark announced that they will donate F-16 aircraft. Denmark said it will provide 19 planes, while the Netherlands has not said how many planes it will donate.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy toured several European countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark, but skipped Norway.