WASHINGTON: The US will start training Ukrainian pilots to fly US-made F-16 fighter jets, beginning at an Air National Guard base in October, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The training is part of a US and European effort to get the advanced fighter jets to Ukraine for its defense against invading Russian forces.
The announcement came as President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to commemorate Ukraine’s Independence Day and to reiterate support for the effort to fight back Russian troops.
The two discussed the F-16 training, and Biden assured Zelensky of an expedited approval for other nations to transfer their F-16s to Ukraine once training is completed, the White House said in a statement.
Zelensky thanked Biden, Congress and “all Americans” in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The US took the lead in rallying global support for Ukraine. This crucial leadership enabled our struggle and bent the arc of history toward good.”
US military officials stress it takes years of training to be able to field F-16 squadrons, limiting the impact the aircraft will have on Ukraine’s defense for the near future.
“This is about the long-term support to Ukraine,” the Pentagon spokesman, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, told reporters in Washington. “This is not about the counteroffensive that they’re conducting right now.”
The training will take place at Morris Air National Guard base in Tucson, Arizona. The pilots will first undergo English instruction at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to bring their fluency up to the level needed to operate the aircraft, starting next month, Ryder said.
Ukraine has long pressed for the American fighter jets to help defend its cities and forces from Russian artillery and aviation. Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway announced in recent days they would supply the aircraft to Ukraine.
Ryder said the US decided to join European allies in the training to avoid bottlenecks in bringing Ukrainian pilots up to speed.
The US training would accommodate “several” Ukrainian fighter pilots and dozens of maintenance people for the jets, he said.
For experienced pilots, training can range around five months, Ryder said. He sketched out courses covering the basics. In addition to flying the advanced craft, they include formation flying, operating weapons, air combat and suppressing air defense systems, on top of centrifuge training on the ground to help pilots withstand the g-forces of an F-16 cockpit.
US will start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s at air base in Arizona
US will start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s at air base in Arizona
- The training is part of a US and European effort to get the advanced fighter jets to Ukraine for its defense against invading Russian forces
- Several Ukrainian fighter pilots and dozens of maintenance people for the jets will be trained, says Pentagon spokesman
A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash
- Tycoons from around the world, heads of state and celebrities arrived in Jamnagar for Anant Ambani’s big fat wedding
- Ambani family has a tradition of throwing lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying family’s political and economic clout
NEW DELHI: What happens when the son of Asia’s richest man is about to get married?
His father throws a three-day prenuptial bash four months before the actual ceremony.
Tycoons from around the world, heads of state, as well as Hollywood and Bollywood stars descended on the small western Indian city of Jamnagar on Friday where billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani is kickstarting a big fat wedding celebration for his youngest son.
The nearly 1,200-person guest list includes pop superstar Rihanna, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sunder Picha, Ivanka Trump and Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan.
All eyes are on Anant Ambani, 28, and his long-time girlfriend Radhika Merchant, 29, who will tie the knot in July. Radhika is the daughter of Viren Merchant, CEO of Encore Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., and entrepreneur Shaila Merchant.
Such festivities keep up with the Ambani family’s tradition of lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying the Indian billionaire’s economic and political clout.
Here is everything you need to know about the family and the prenuptial bash that captivated the country.
WHO IS MUKESH AMBANI?
Mukesh Ambani, 66, is currently the world’s 10th richest man with a net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes. He is also the richest person in Asia.
His Reliance Industries is a massive conglomerate, reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests ranging from petrochemicals, and oil and gas to telecoms and retail.
Under Ambani’s leadership, Reliance — founded by his father in 1966 — sparked a telecom price war with the launch of the 4G phone and broadband service Jio in 2016. Today, it has more than 420 million subscribers and offers 5G services. Earlier this week, Disney struck an $8.5bn deal to merge its India business with Ambani’s Reliance Industries, forming a new media giant.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story private apartment building, named Antila, worth $1 billion in Mumbai. It has three helipads, a 160-car garage, a private movie theater, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.
Ambani’s critics say his company has flourished mainly because of political connections during the Congress governments in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014. They say “crony capitalism” in India has helped certain corporations, such as Ambani’s, thrive.
Mukesh Ambani, 66, has started passing the torch to his two sons and daughter. The oldest son, Akash Ambani, is now chairperson of Reliance Jio; his daughter, Isha, oversees retail; and the youngest, Anant — who will wed in July— has been inducted into the new energy business.
DO YOU WANT A PARTY LIKE NO OTHER? THE AMBANIS HAVE YOUR BACK
Extravagant parties are the Ambanis’ specialty.
In 2018, when his daughter married, Ambani made the headlines because of the grand celebrations, with pop sensation Beyoncé performing at the pre-wedding festivities. At the time, Former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.
Later that year, the happy couple, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal, officially celebrated their engagement overlooking the picturesque Lake Como in Italy. In December 2018, they got married at the Ambani residence in Mumbai.
WHAT IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT THE PRE-WEDDING SHINDIG?
The three-day pre-wedding bash offers a glimpse of the opulence expected at the July wedding.
The Ambanis are celebrating it at the family’s hometown of Jamnagar — a city of around 600,000 in a near-desert part of Gujarat state — where they also have the business’ main oil refinery.
Guests will don jungle-themed outfits to visit an animal rescue center run by the groom-to-be, Anant. Known as “Vantara,” or “Star Of The Forest,” the 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) center houses abused, injured and endangered animals, particularly elephants.
The invitation also says guests will start each day with a new dress code, with mood boards and an army of hair stylists, makeup artists and Indian wear designers at their hotel to help them prepare.
There will also be traditional Hindu ceremonies in a temple complex.
The guests, many arriving by chartered planes, will be served 500 dishes created by around 100 chefs.
The guest list also includes Mohammed Bin Jassim al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar; Stephen Harper, former Canadian prime minister; and Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
On Wednesday, the Ambani family organized a community food service for 51,000 people living in nearby villages.
Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention
- Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
- March 5 is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries, the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election
COLUMBIA, Missouri: Former President Donald Trump continued his march toward the GOP nomination on Saturday, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the delegate haul at a party convention in Michigan.
Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. A candidate needs to secure 1,215 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
The next event on the Republican calendar is Sunday in the District of Columbia. Two days later is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries on what will be the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election. Trump is on track to lock up the nomination days later.
The steep odds facing Haley were on display in Columbia, Missouri, where Republicans gathered at a church to caucus.
Seth Christensen stood on stage and called on them to vote for Haley. He wasn’t well received.
Another caucusgoer shouted out from the audience: “Are you a Republican?”
An organizer quieted the crowd and Christensen finished his speech. Haley went on to win just 37 of the 263 Republicans in attendance in Boone County.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s contests:
Michigan Republicans at their convention in Grand Rapids began allocating 39 of the state’s 55 GOP presidential delegates. Trump won all 39 delegates allocated.
But a significant portion of the party’s grassroots force was skipping the gathering because of the lingering effects of a monthslong dispute over the party’s leadership.
Trump handily won Michigan’s primary this past Tuesday with 68 percent of the vote compared with Haley’s 27 percent.
Michigan Republicans were forced to split their delegate allocation into two parts after Democrats, who control the state government, moved Michigan into the early primary states, violating the national Republican Party’s rules.
Voters lined up outside a church in Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, before the doors opened for the caucuses. Once they got inside, they heard appeals from supporters of the candidates.
“Every 100 days, we’re spending $1 trillion, with money going all over the world. Illegals are running across the border,” Tom Mendenall, an elector for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said to the crowd. He later added: “You know where Donald Trump stands on a lot of these issues.”
Christensen, a 31-year-old from Columbia who came to the caucus with his wife and three children age 7, 5, and 2, then urged Republicans to go in a new direction.
“I don’t need to hear about Mr. Trump’s dalliances with people of unsavory character, nor do my children,” Christensen said to the room. “And if we put that man in the office, that’s what we’re going to hear about all the time. And I’m through with it.”
Supporters quickly moved to one side of the room or the other, depending on whether they favored Trump or Haley. There was little discussion between caucusgoers after they chose a side.
This year was the first test of the new system, which is almost entirely run by volunteers on the Republican side.
The caucuses were organized after GOP Gov. Mike Parson signed a 2022 law that, among other things, canceled the planned March 12 presidential primary.
Lawmakers failed to reinstate the primary despite calls to do so by both state Republican and Democratic party leaders. Democrats will hold a party-run primary on March 23.
Trump prevailed twice under Missouri’s old presidential primary system.
Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed cost-cutting legislation that was intended to move all the state’s primaries to the same date in May. But the bill inadvertently eliminated the presidential primaries entirely.
The Republican-led Legislature considered holding a special session to reinstate the presidential primaries but failed to agree on a proposal in time, leaving both parties with presidential caucuses as the only option.
“I think there’s been a lot of confusion because most people don’t realize that our Legislature actually voted in a flawed bill,” said Jessie Bryant, who volunteered at a caucus site near downtown Boise. “So the caucus is really just the best-case scenario to actually get an opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate and nominate them for the GOP.”
One of those voters was John Graves, a fire protection engineer from Boise. He said the caucus was fast and easy, not much different from Idaho’s usual Republican primary. He anticipated the win would go to Trump.
“It’s a very conservative state, so I would think that Trump will probably carry it quite easily,” Graves said. “And I like that.”
The Democratic caucuses aren’t until May 23.
The last GOP caucuses in Idaho were in 2012, when about 40,000 of the state’s nearly 200,000 registered Republican voters showed up to select their preferred
Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US
- “Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America,” Trump said in a campaign rally
- Trump conjured images of Biden turning “public schools into migrant camps” and “the USA into a crime-ridden, disease-ridden dumping ground, which is what they’re doing."
GREENSBORO, North Carolina: Former President Donald Trump on Saturday further escalated his immigration rhetoric and baselessly accused President Joe Biden of waging a “conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America” as he campaigned ahead of Super Tuesday’s primaries.
Trump has a long history of trying to turn attack lines back on his rivals in an attempt to diminish their impact. Biden has cast Trump as a threat to democracy, pointing to the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Those efforts culminated in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as his supporters tried to halt the peaceful transition of power.
Trump, who has responded by calling Biden “the real threat to democracy” and alleged without proof that Biden is responsible for the indictments he faces, turned to Biden’s border policies on Saturday, charging that “every day Joe Biden is giving aid and comfort to foreign enemies of the United States.”
“Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America,” he went on to say in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Biden and his accomplices want to collapse the American system, nullify the will of the actual American voters and establish a new base of power that gives them control for generations.”
Similar arguments have long been made by people who allege Democrats are promoting illegal immigration to weaken the power of white voters — part of a racist conspiracy, once confined to the far right, claiming there is an intentional push by the US liberal establishment to systematically diminish the influence of white people.
Trump leaned into the theory again at his rally later in Virginia, saying of the migrants: “They’re trying to sign them up to get them to vote in the next election.”
“Once again Trump is projecting in an attempt to distract the American people from the fact he killed the fairest and toughest border security bill in decades because he believed it would help his campaign. Sad,” Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Trump’s rally came three days before Super Tuesday, with elections in 16 states, including North Carolina and Virginia, where Trump held a rally Saturday evening. The primaries will be the largest day of voting of the year ahead of November’s general election, which is shaping up as a likely rematch of 2020 between Trump and Biden.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s last major rival, also campaigned in North Carolina. Speaking to reporters after her event in Raleigh, about 80 miles away, the former UN ambassador demurred on her plans after Super Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep going and we’re going to keep pushing,” she said, arguing a majority of Americans don’t want either Biden or Trump as the nation’s leader.
Much of Trump’s speech in North Carolina focused on the slew of criminal charges he faces. While the former president has successfully harnessed his legal woes into a powerful rallying cry in the primaries, it is unclear how his message of grievance will resonate with the more moderate voters who will likely decide the general election.
“I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president, but as a proud political dissident and a public enemy of a rogue regime,” Trump said, railing against what he called an “anti-Democratic machine.”
At both rallies, Trump played a recording of “Justice for All,” the version of the Star-Spangled Banner that he collaborated on with a group of defendants jailed over their alleged roles in the January 2021 insurrection, whom he refers to as “hostages.”
As he focuses on the general election, Trump has painted an apocalyptic vision of the country under Biden, particularly on the topic of immigration, which was the animating issue of his 2016 campaign and which he has once again seized on as the US has experienced a record influx of migrants at the border.
Trump and Biden both visited the US-Mexico border on Thursday to highlight their contrasting approaches to the issue.
On Saturday, Trump conjured images of Biden turning “public schools into migrant camps” and “the USA into a crime-ridden, disease-ridden dumping ground, which is what they’re doing.” He also spoke at length about the murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student whose alleged killer is a Venezuelan man who entered the US illegally and was allowed to stay to pursue his immigration case.
Studies have found native-born US residents are more likely to have been arrested for violent crimes than people in the country illegally, but Trump has seized on several high-profile incidents, including a recent video of a group of migrants brawling with police in Times Square.
“Not one more innocent American life should be lost to migrant crime,” Trump said.
Beyond their importance on Super Tuesday, North Carolina and Virginia are both states the Trump campaign is focused on for November.
Trump won North Carolina twice but watched his margin of victory shrink. Biden’s reelection campaign already has staff on the ground hoping to flip the state for the first time since 2008.
Virginia, meanwhile, had once been a swing state but for years has trended blue and Trump lost there twice. But a Trump campaign senior adviser told reporters Saturday that he believes “we could make Virginia competitive.”
In North Carolina, a festive atmosphere surrounded the Greensboro Coliseum Complex ahead of Trump’s rally. Supporters stood in a line that snaked through a web of metal barricades and extended hundreds of yards from the arena. License plates from North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee filled the parking lot, where Trump flags flew alongside US and Confederate flags on many vehicles.
“We just love Trump,” said, Mary Welborn, who lives in nearby Thomasville and expressed that she was frustrated by the criminal prosecutions and civil judgments against the former president. “The way he’s being treated is insane. No other president has been treated this way,” she said.
After the rally, several attendees praised Trump’s hard line on immigration.
“We look like fools around the world with the border just wide open,” said Samuel Welborn of Thomasville.
“My biggest concern is that my kids are not going to have the same country that I grew up in,” added his wife, Mary. “It’s just a different time.”
In Richmond, supporters started lining up Saturday morning for an evening rally at a downtown convention center. The entry lines stretched several blocks by mid-afternoon, and supporters booed as a vehicle with a Haley campaign ad circled the building.
David McDaniel of nearby Chester said the country had gone downhill since Trump left office and that he’d personally struggled.
McDaniel, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said he had to shut down a construction business he owned due to rising costs for materials and gas.
“The fuel prices just ran us out,” said McDaniel, 32. “So we need Trump to get back in so we can open it back up.”
Zelensky calls for more Western air defense systems to ‘save lives’
- Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages
KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged the West to deliver more air defense systems after at least six people were killed in the latest Russian strikes.
Overnight aerial attacks claimed four lives in the southern port city of Odesa, including a three-year-old child, while shelling killed one person in the Kharkiv region near the Russian border and another in the southern frontline Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.
“Russia continues to hit civilians,” Zelensky said in a post on social media.
“We need more air defenses from our partners. We need to strengthen the Ukrainian air shield to add more protection for our people from Russian terror. More air defence systems and more missiles for air defense systems saves lives,” he said.
Ukraine is currently on the back foot in the two-year war as a crucial $60-billion aid package is held up in the United States Congress.
In Odesa, “a nine-story building was destroyed as a result of an attack by Russian terrorists,” Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said Saturday in a post on Telegram.
Footage shared from the scene showed several floors of a residential building collapsed and its facade ripped off.
In Kharkiv, a 76-year-old man was killed in a shelling attack shortly after midnight, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said.
And shelling in the frontline Kherson region on Saturday morning killed one more person, the provincial head said.
Ukraine’s air force said Russia had launched 17 Iranian “Shahed” drones overnight and fired three missiles.
It said it downed 14 of the drones, but falling debris caused damage to residential buildings in Odesa and Kharkiv.
Kyiv also appeared to have had launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.
Videos on Russian social media showed what appeared to be a drone spiraling downwards into the building, triggering an explosion, blowing out windows and causing small fires.
The city’s National Guard division said its preliminary assumption was the damage was caused by a “falling drone.”
Ukrainian media reported the drone was shot down by Russia’s air defenses while targeting an oil depot less than a kilometer from the crash site.
Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.
The attacks come with Russia seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield.
Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages amid aid delays.
Half of all promised Western ammunition arrives in the country late, the defense minister has said — in what he called critical delays that cost lives and territory.
Russian forces have pressed westwards following last month’s capture of Avdiivka, and have seized several small villages in recent days.
Visiting frontline military posts on Saturday, Ukraine’s new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said “the situation at the front remains difficult, but controlled.”
Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones
- The Leningradv regional governor said “aerial targets” were hit over the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Finland in Lomonosov district
- The defense ministry said Ukraine had attempted to carry out an attack “using aircraft-type UAVs” over Leningrad region
MOSCOW: Russia’s defense ministry said its air defenses destroyed a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, over Leningrad region, which borders the Gulf of Finland, and a second one in Belgorod region on Saturday.
Alexander Drozdenko, the Leningrad regional governor, said “aerial targets” were hit over the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Finland in Lomonosov district, which includes Bronka, a port about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of St. Petersburg.
“There are no casualties and no damage,” he said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
The defense ministry said Ukraine had attempted to carry out an attack “using aircraft-type UAVs” over Leningrad region, and separately, over Belgorod region.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said two drones were shot down over two villages on Saturday but there were no reports of casualties or damage.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency quoted aviation officials as saying operations at Pulkovo Airport at St. Petersburg were temporarily limited but that no flights were delayed.
TASS said movement of ships at Bronka was unaffected and that MarineTraffic data showed only one Turkish bulk carrier was docked at the port.