Russia targets North Sea infrastructure as Netherlands discuss F-16 delivery to Ukraine, says the Dutch intelligence agency

Ukraine has asked the Netherlands to supply it with F-16 fighter jets, Minister Kajsa Ollongren of Defense confirmed. She told NOS that she understands President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for “wings of freedom,” but it is complicated to agree to.

“We need to discuss the availability of F1-6s with the Americans and other allies,” Ollongren told the broadcaster. “And we have to look seriously at the consequences. It can’t just happen overnight. We have to be honest about that.” Ukrainian soldiers will also have to get training to operate the jets. And as the plane is an American defense system, the U.S. government will have to give permission.

Despite these obstacles, Ollongren thinks Ukraine will eventually be one of the countries that can use F-16s. “The country will never be able to buy Russian fighters again, at least, which they used to.”

At the end of January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a joint press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron that Ukraine had yet to ask for F-16s. That request has now formally been made.

After Zelenskyy appeared in the European Parliament on Thursday, Rutte told RTL Nieuws that he “wouldn’t say no” to F-16s and that there are “no taboos” for the Netherlands in helping Ukraine fight the Russian invaders.

North Sea infrastructure under attack

Russia has in recent months tried to gain intelligence to sabotage critical infrastructure in the Dutch part of the North Sea, Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD said on Monday.

A Russian ship has been detected at an offshore wind farm in the North Sea as it tried to map out energy infrastructure, MIVD head General Jan Swillens said at a news conference.

The vessel was escorted out of the North Sea by Dutch marine and coast guard ships before any sabotage effort could become successful, he added.

“We saw in recent months Russian actors tried to uncover how the energy system works in the North Sea. It is the first time we have seen this,” Swillens said.

“Russia is mapping how our wind parks in the North Sea function. They are very interested in how they could sabotage the energy infrastructure.”

Dutch intelligence agencies MIVD and AIVD, in a joint report published on Monday, said critical offshore infrastructure such as internet cables, gas pipes and windmill farms had become the target of Russian sabotage activities.

“Russia is secretly charting this infrastructure and is undertaking activities which indicate preparations for disruption and sabotage”, the agencies said.

Covert threats by Russia to water and energy supplies in the Netherlands were also conceivable, they added.

The Netherlands said on Saturday it would expel an undisclosed number of Russian diplomats as it accused Russia of continuously bringing in spies under diplomatic cover.

It also ordered Russia to close its trade mission in Amsterdam and said it would shut down the Dutch consulate in Saint Petersburg.

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