May 23, 2024

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Poland becomes the first NATO member to donate fighter jets to Ukraine

Poland becomes the first NATO member to donate fighter jets to Ukraine

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland said Thursday it plans to give Ukraine about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, making it the first NATO member to meet Kyiv’s increasingly pressing requests. For warplanes to defend themselves against the Russian invasion.

President Andrzej Duda said that Warsaw would deliver four Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days”, with the rest in need of maintenance but to be provided later. The Polish word I use to describe the total number can mean between 11 and 19.

“They are in their final years of operation, but they are in good working order,” Duda said.

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

On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries It also pledged to deliver MiGs to Kiev, but did not specify their identity. Poland and Slovakia have both indicated that they are willing to surrender their aircraft, but only as part of a broader international coalition that does the same.

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

“So far, everyone has agreed that it is not the right time to send fighter jets,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters. “I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this will happen.”

The White House called Poland’s move a sovereign decision and praised the Poles for continuing to “beat above their weight” in helping Kiev, but stressed that the move would have no impact on President Joe Biden, who has resisted calls to provide US F-16s. to Ukraine.

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White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “There is no change in our view regarding combat aircraft at this time.” This is our sovereign decision. This is where we are, other countries can talk about their “decisions”.

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

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 is unclear how many remain in service after more than a year of combat.

discussion Last year began supplying fighter jets to non-NATO Ukraine, but NATO allies have expressed concern about the alliance’s escalating role in the war. The indecision continued even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made increasingly vocal appeals For Western supporters to share their warplanes.

Duda’s announcement came during a joint press conference in Warsaw with visiting Czech President Petr Pavel.

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

Poland provided crucial support to Ukraine during the war. It hosts thousands of American troops, and it took in more Ukrainians than any other country during the mass exodus of refugees sparked by the Russian invasion.

The Central European country has seen Russian invasions and occupations for centuries and still fears Russia despite being a NATO member.

___Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine