Poland to send four Soviet-era jets to Ukraine in coming days

Other Nato members with MiG-29 jets in their inventories include Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. PHOTO: AFP

WARSAW - Poland will send four Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days as the nation moves ahead with deliveries to bolster Kyiv’s air power, President Andrzej Duda said. 

“The decision has been made” and more MiG-29 models currently under maintenance are on the way, Mr Duda told reporters in Warsaw on Thursday.

The Polish government said this week that several allies had also signalled readiness to send such aircraft, with Slovakia on Wednesday saying it was prepared to dispatch MiGs. 

The deliveries would cross a threshold in sending firepower to Kyiv, as many western allies have drawn the line at delivering fighter jets, citing the risk of being drawn into a direct confrontation with Moscow.

And while the ageing aircraft don’t meet the standard of more modern F-16s or similar models Kyiv has craved most, MiG shipments could add to Ukraine’s fleet with operational jets or spare parts for its own damaged stock.

The US reinforced its support for the deliveries. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called them “sovereign decisions,” though said it didn’t “change our calculus” on President Joe Biden’s decision not to send F-16 fighters, for now. 

“I’m not going to miss an opportunity to plug Poland, who is really punching above its weight when it comes to supporting Ukraine,” Mr Kirby said, in Washington, on Thursday. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his military leadership have persistently demanded warplanes since the first days of the war as essential to driving back the Russian invasion.

Those calls were renewed this year when western members of the transatlantic alliance abandoned a political taboo and pledged battle tanks to Kyiv, raising speculation that fighter jets would be the next barrier to fall.

Mr Duda said Poland received the aircraft from East Germany. The planes – a dozen or more at the end of their technical lifespan – will now strengthen Ukraine’s fleet of Soviet-era jets. MiG deliveries won’t jeopardise Poland’s security as the nation’s air force upgrades to Korean FA-50 and US-made F-35 combat jets, the president said. 

Slovakia, whose interim government is poised to green-light a delivery, has 13 MiG fighters in various states of readiness.

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They were grounded last August after the termination of a maintenance agreement with Russia.

Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said last month that Ukraine would be able to add as many as eight new planes to its fleet from Slovak hardware. 

No other allies have yet come forward with a contribution pledge.

Other Nato members with MiG-29 jets in their inventories include Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. BLOOMBERG

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