President Andrzej Duda says Poland will give Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in the coming days, a move that will make his country the first NATO member to fulfil the Ukrainian government’s increasingly urgent requests for such aircraft.
Poland currently has about a dozen Soviet-manufactured MiG-29s, which were taken over from former East German stocks in the early 1990s, Duda said on Thursday.
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“Firstly, literally within the next few days, we will hand over, as far as I remember, four aircraft to Ukraine in full working order,” Duda said at a news conference in Warsaw with Petr Pavel, the president of the Czech Republic.
The rest of the fighter jets would be supplied after necessary checks have been completed, Duda said.
“[They] are being prepared, serviced,” he said.
Duda did not say if other countries would be making the same move although Slovakia has said it would send MiGs that it is not using to Ukraine.
Later on Thursday, the White House said Poland’s move does not alter the US decision against sending its own fighter aircraft to Kyiv.
“It doesn’t change our calculus with regards to F16s,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, referring to the US-built fighter jet.
Meanwhile US Secretary of State Antony Blinken alluded to the heavy costs of US fighter jets.
“I think it’s a mistake to get focused on any particular weapons system at any given time,” Blinken said while speaking to reporters on a visit to Niger.
He said it was important “not only making sure that the Ukrainians have the right weapons system but that they can use it.”
“So depending on the system, that might require significant training” or maintenance, Blinken said. “Different countries are doing different things in response to what they have and to what the perceived needs are.”
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said other countries with MiGs also had pledged them to Ukraine, but he did not name them.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with his allies to share their fighter jets, NATO countries have expressed hesitancy.
Duda said Poland’s air force would replace the planes it gives to Ukraine with South Korea-made FA-50 fighters and United States-made F-35 jets.
Poland has sent 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.