Slovakia follows Poland in pledging to send jets to Ukraine

  • Slovakia is the second NATO country to provide Ukraine with fighter jets
  • The U.S. says it hasn't changed its position on giving F-16s
  • Kyiv has been pleading for warplanes for months

(NewsNation) — Slovakia’s government has approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member country to heed the Ukrainian government’s pleas for warplanes to help defend against Russia’s invasion.

On Friday, Prime Minister Eduard Heger told a news conference that his government is “on the right side of history.” Earlier, Heger tweeted that military aid was key to ensuring Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia will receive $213 million from the European Union as compensation and unspecified arms from the United States worth $745 million.

This follows Poland’s announcement that it will provide Ukraine with fighter jets, to fulfill a significant request from Kyiv, which says it needs robust air defense to deter invading Russian forces.

President Andrzej Duda announced Thursday that four of the MiG-29 jets will be delivered to Ukraine “within the next few days,” but that the rest need servicing and would be provided at a later time.

It’s a major victory for Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been pleading for months for his Western counterparts to provide fighter jets. The United States has resisted giving F-16s to Kyiv.

“There’s no change in our view with respect to fighter aircraft at this time,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday. “That is our sovereign decision. That is where we are, other nations can speak to their own” decisions.

On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries also had pledged MiGs to Kyiv, but did not identify them. Both Poland and Slovakia had indicated they were ready to hand over their planes, but only as part of a wider international coalition doing the same.

Germany appeared caught off-guard by Poland’s decision.

“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 debate over whether to provide non-NATO member Ukraine with military fighter jets started last year, but NATO allies held off, citing concern about escalating the alliance’s role in the war.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s it inherited in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but it’s unclear how many remain in service after more than a year of fighting.

What was anticipated to be a quick and decisive war has turned into one of attrition. Ukrainian and Russian forces are currently locked in battle in the eastern part of the country, especially fighting for control of the city of Bakhmut.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine

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