Poland will deliver four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday, becoming the first NATO country to do so.
Warsaw was the first among NATO allies to supply Kiev with heavy weapons, including Soviet-designed fighter jets. “Talking about the MI-29s still defending Polish airspace, the decision has been taken at the highest level and we can say with confidence that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda said.
“We have a dozen or so MIGS, handed down from the GDR in the 90s, that are functioning and have a role in defending our airspace. They have reached the end of their useful life, but are still operational,” Duda added .
“In the next few days we will hand over four aircraft to Ukraine, and the rest of the machines are being repaired and ready for handover. We will replace them with South Korean FA-50s and American F-35s,” said the Polish president.
At a news conference in Warsaw, the Polish president joined his new Czech counterpart Peter Pavel in expressing their mutual support for Kiev.
“The Czech Republic and Poland are definitely at the forefront when it comes to supporting Ukraine on a humanitarian and military level,” Duda said.
More background: Thursday’s announcement came after NATO allies agreed earlier this year to send modern Western main battle tanks to Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Schulz announced his country would deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks in January, bowing to mounting international pressure – led by the US, Poland and a bloc of other European countries calling on Berlin to step up its military Support and commit to sending the vehicle they want.
The U.S. also made the announcement, with President Joe Biden saying he would supply Ukraine with 31 M1 Abrams tanks, reversing a long-running government request for the highly complex but maintenance-intensive vehicles from Kiev. Boycott attitude.
Since the decision on the tanks, senior Ukrainian officials have stepped up their public lobbying for the US-made F-16 fighter jets, saying they desperately need them to fend off Russian missiles and drones.
But the push has been met with skepticism by U.S. and allied officials who say the jets are impractical because they require extensive training and because Russia has extensive air defenses that could easily shoot them down.
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand and Alex Marquardt contributed reporting for this article.