Poland is poised to give Ukraine roughly a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, almost certainly making it the first NATO member to accede to Volodymyr Zelensky’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes. President Andrzej Duda said Poland would hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days” and that the rest needed servicing and would be supplied later.
The Polish word he used to describe the total number can mean between 11 and 19.
He said of the aircraft: “They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition.”
Mr Duda did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia has said it would send its disused MiGs to Ukraine.
Poland was also the first NATO nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries also had pledged MiGs to Kyiv, although he did not name them.
Both Poland and Slovakia had indicated they were ready to hand over their planes, but only as part of a wider international coalition doing the same.
Germany’s government seems to have been caught off guard by Duda’s announcement.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters: “So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets.
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Mr Duda made the announcement during a joint news conference in Warsaw with the visiting Czech president, Petr Pavel, saying Poland’s air force would replace the planes it gives to Ukraine with South Korea-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s.
Poland has provided Ukraine with crucial support during the war.
It is hosting thousands of American troops and has taken in more Ukrainians than any other nation during the refugee exodus sparked by the Russian invasion.
The central European nation experienced Russian invasions and occupations for centuries and still fears Russia despite being a NATO member.