Poland announced on Thursday that it plans to hand over about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. This makes it the first NATO member to meet Kiev’s increasingly urgent need for fighter aircraft for self-defense. Russian invasion.
President Andrzej Duda said Warsaw will hand over four of its Soviet fighters “within the next few days”, with the rest needing maintenance but to be delivered later. . The Polish word he used for the total number means between 11 and 19.
“They are in their last year of functioning, but they are doing well,” said Duda.
Slovakia said it would send its own disused MiGs to Ukraine, but did not say whether other countries would follow suit. Poland also provided Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks. It was also the first NATO member country.
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said several other countries had also committed MiGs to Kiev, but did not specify them. Both Poland and Slovakia had indicated they were ready to deliver their own aircraft, but only as part of the wider United Nations doing the same.
The government of neighboring NATO member Germany seemed caught off guard by Duda’s announcement.
“So far, everyone agrees that it’s not the time to send fighters,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told a news conference. “There is still no confirmation from Poland that this has happened.”
The White House called Poland’s move a sovereignty decision and praised the Poles for continuing to “punch above their weight” in support of Kiev, but emphasized the move. nothing to do On President Biden resisting calls to provide U.S. F-16s to Ukraine.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “At this time, there is no change to our position on fighter jets.” “That’s our sovereign decision. That’s our position, and other countries can talk about their decisions.”
The White House said Poland had notified the US of its decision to provide the MiGs before Duda announced the move.
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had dozens of MiG-29s it inherited from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but after more than a year of fighting, several have been destroyed. It is unknown if he remains in active service.
Debate over whether to provide fighter planes to non-NATO member Ukraine began last year, but NATO allies expressed concern about escalating the alliance’s role in the war. Even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed increasingly vocally to his Western supporters to share military aircraft, the hesitation persisted.
Duda made the announcement at a joint press conference with Czech President Petr Pavel, who is visiting in Warsaw.
Duda said the Polish Air Force will replace the planes supplied to Ukraine with South Korean-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s.
Poland has provided significant assistance to Ukraine during the war. It has hosted thousands of American troops and has hosted more Ukrainians than any other country during the refugee exodus caused by the Russian invasion.
The Central European country has experienced Russian aggression and occupation for centuries and still fears Russia despite being a member of NATO.