Poland and Slovakia said that they intend to give Ukraine around a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, which would make them the first Nato member to fulfill the Ukrainian government’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes.
President Andrzej Duda said Poland would hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days” and that the rest needed servicing and would be supplied later. The Polish word he used to describe the total number can mean between 11 and 19.
Poland was also the first Nato nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
Slovakia on Friday became the second of Ukraine’s allies to provide MIG-29 fighter jets which Kyiv believes are crucial to repel Russia’s year-long invasion.
Slovakia joined Poland, which announced its delivery of the planes on Thursday. Both the NATO members neighbour Ukraine.
Its fleet of 11 MiG-29 planes was retired last summer and most of them are not in operational condition. It will send those that are operational and the rest will go for spare parts.
Slovakia will also supply part of its KUB air-defence system, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said.
Germany appeared caught off guard by these developments.
“So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters. “I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this has happened.”
The White House called Poland’s providing Ukraine fighter jets a sovereign decision and lauded the Poles for continuing to “punch above their weight” in assisting Kyiv.
But the US administration stressed that Poland’s move would have no bearing on President Joe Biden, who has resisted calls to provide US F-16s to Ukraine.
“There’s no change in our view with respect to fighter aircraft at this time,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “That is our sovereign decision. That is where we are, other nations can speak to their own” decisions.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told Danish TV2 on Thursday Western nations are debating whether to send fighter jets to Ukraine.
“This is something we’re discussing in the group of allied countries. It’s a big wish from Ukraine,” she said.
Denmark is “open” to the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine to help its war effort against the Russian invasion, the Danish defence minister said on Friday, according to state broadcaster DR.
“I won’t rule out that at some point it may be necessary to look at the contribution of fighter jets,” acting Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said.
The Danish air force has purchased 77 F-16 jets since the 1970s, according to the armed forces. Around 30 of them are currently in operation, according to local media reports.