Russia to respond properly if Ukraine receives combat planes, air defense systems from NATO countries - Shoigu
MOSCOW. March 29 (Interfax) - Russia will give a proper response if a number of NATO countries go ahead with their plans to supply Ukraine with combat planes and air defense systems, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
"We're monitoring statements by leaders of certain NATO countries on their intention to supply planes and air defense systems to Ukraine. In case of their implementation, we'll respond appropriately," Shoigu said at a teleconference on Tuesday.
The supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine from the West is irresponsible, and the uncontrollable arming of the population may create a threat to European nations, he said.
"We view the stance of the West, which supplies lethal weapons to Ukraine, as irresponsible. The uncontrollable arming of the population and mercenaries is exacerbating the situation and may eventually create a threat to Europeans themselves," Shoigu said at the teleconference.
About 600 foreign mercenaries have been killed in Ukraine over the past two weeks and over 500 others have left the country, and their overall number in Ukraine has been decreasing, Shoigu said.
"Over 500 mercenaries have left the country and about 600 others have been eliminated over the past two weeks," Shoigu said at the teleconference.
The Ukrainian army has sustained considerable damage, and the special military operation has basically reached its targets, which allows it to focus on the achievement of the primary objective, i.e. the liberation of Donbas, the Defense Minister said.
"[...] Let me speak about the progress of the special military operation conducted by the Russian Armed Forces in Ukrainian territory. On the whole, the main targets of the first stage of this operation have been reached. The combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly depleted, which allows us to concentrate attention and our main efforts on the achievement of the primary objective, i.e. the liberation of Donbas," Shoigu said.
In his words, "the Ukrainian Armed Forces have suffered considerable damage."
"Air superiority has been achieved. The air force and the air defense network have been practically destroyed," Shoigu said.
As many as 123 out of 152 planes operated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the beginning of the operation have been destroyed, as well as 77 out of 149 helicopters, and 152 out of 180 long- and intermediate-range air defense missile systems, he said.
"The country's navy is now gone. All ground and air assault formations have sustained considerable casualties," Shoigu said.
The special military operation in Ukraine will continue until the objectives are achieved, Sergei Shoigu said.
"The Russian Armed Forces will carry on the special military operation until the objectives are achieved," he said.
In his words, Russian troops are actively helping the population of the Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics and Ukraine to restore peaceful life.
"We are actively providing humanitarian assistance to the population of the LPR and the DPR, and obviously, of Ukraine. As many as 684 humanitarian operations have been completed, and 6,079 tonnes of cargo have been supplied to 210 populated localities," Shoigu said.