The German government has approved Poland’s request to transfer five Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to help Ukraine defend against the Russian invasion.
“I welcome the fact that we in the federal government have reached this decision together,” Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement on Thursday.
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Poland needs Germany’s consent to send its remaining jets to a third country.
Pistorius said the request from Poland had arrived on Thursday, adding that the same-day approval showed that “you can rely on Germany”.
Germany inherited 24 MiG-29 jets from the German Democratic Republic, or GDR, also widely known as East Germany, during reunification in 1990. At the time, the aircraft were seen as among the most advanced fighter jets in the world.
In 2004, the German government passed on 22 of the aircraft to neighbouring Poland. Of the remaining two jets, one was destroyed in a crash and one is on show at a museum.
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Warsaw a week ago, his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, said his country already had provided four MiG-29 jets to Ukraine, with four more in the process of getting handed over and another six being prepared. Slovakia has also delivered MiG-29s to Ukraine.
Ukraine, which hopes to launch a counteroffensive in the coming weeks or months, wants to secure fighter jets to defend against Russian air raids.
Western countries have so far been reluctant to provide Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, such as the US-made F-16s, but some countries have stepped in to send old MiG-29 jets that Ukraine already uses.
Fighter jets had been high on Kyiv’s list of desired equipment since early in the war, but efforts had been focused on acquiring advanced Western tanks.
Calls for Western aircraft have increased since Germany and the United States agreed to send Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks to Ukraine, respectively.
Poland, which has sent 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, was an early advocate of sending fighter jets to the war-torn country.
Although the MiG-29s may provide some relief to Ukraine, they are unlikely to satiate its demands.
Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk has previously called for “a powerful fighter jet coalition for Ukraine,” comprising US-made F-16s and F-35s, Eurofighter, Tornado, Rafale and Gripen warplanes.