In a major escalation of military backing for Kyiv ahead of an expected counter-offensive, Poland will send four Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days to strengthen its air power of Soviet-era jets.
The first planes Warsaw is handing over were inherited from East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall and, after 30 years, were coming to the end of their working lives but are still in working order after being serviced and repaired.
Poland has, in all, 28 MiG-29s ready to be replaced by South Korean FA-50s and US F-35s over the next few years.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that more MiG-29 models under maintenance are on the way and the precedent could also lead to other NATO members providing warplanes, which was a longstanding Ukrainian request.
The Polish government said this week that Slovakia – which has 13 MiG fighters in various states of readiness – among other allies that also indicated they’re ready to send such aircraft, said on Wednesday it was prepared to provide MiGs.
Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said last month that it would be able to send as many as eight new planes to Kyiv. After the termination of a maintenance agreement with Russia, Slovakia, the interim government of which is poised to approve the MiGs delivery, grounded the fighters last August.
Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania are among other NATO members with MiG-29 jets in their inventories but no other allies have yet come forward with a contribution pledge.
Since many western allies have drawn the line at delivering fighter jets to avoid the risk of being drawn into a direct confrontation with Russia, these deliveries would mean crossing a threshold in sending firepower to Ukraine.
MiG shipments could add to Kyiv’s fleet with operational jets or spare parts for its own damaged stock though the aging aircrafts do not meet the standard of more modern F-16s Ukraine has craved most.