Poland will be the first NATO member to supply Ukraine with fighter jets

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Thursday announced plans to give Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, making it the first NATO member to meet growing demands. emergencies from Kyiv. for warplanes to defend against Russian invasion.

Warsaw will hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “in the next few days”, President Andrzej Duda said, and the rest needed repairs but would be delivered later. The Polish word he used to describe the total number could mean between 11 and 19.

“They’re in the final years of operation, but they’re in good working order,” Duda said.

He did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia said it would send its own decommissioned MiGs. to Ukraine. Poland was also the first NATO country to supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

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

The government of Germany, a neighboring NATO member, seemed taken aback by Duda’s announcement.

“So far everyone agrees that now is not the time to send fighter jets,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters. “I don’t yet have confirmation from Poland that this has happened.”

The White House called Poland’s decision a sovereign decision and praised the Poles for continuing to ‘stretch above their weight’ in helping Kyiv, but stressed the move would have no bearing on the president Joe Biden, who resisted calls to provide US F-16s. to Ukraine.

“There is no change in our view regarding fighter jets at this time,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “It’s our sovereign decision. This is where we are, other nations can talk about their own decisions.

The White House said Poland informed the United States of its decision to supply MiGs before Duda announced the decision.

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

Debate on whether to supply non-NATO Ukraine with fighter jets began last year, but NATO allies have expressed concern about the alliance’s escalating role in the war. The hesitation continued even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made increasingly vocal pleas Western supporters to share their war planes.

Duda made the announcement during a joint press conference in Warsaw with Czech President Petr Pavel.

Duda said the Polish Air Force would replace the planes it donates to Ukraine with South Korean-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s.

Poland provided Ukraine with crucial support during the war. It hosts thousands of American soldiers and took in more Ukrainians than any other country during the refugee exodus caused by the Russian invasion.

The Central European nation has experienced Russian invasions and occupations for centuries and still fears Russia despite being a member of NATO.

___ Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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