Slovakia sends MIG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine – PM

March 17 (Reuters) – Slovakia on Friday became Ukraine’s second ally to supply MIG-29 fighter jets, which Kiev says are crucial to fighting off Russia’s years-long invasion.

Slovakia joined Poland, which announced delivery of the planes on Thursday. Both NATO members border Ukraine.

The fleet of 11 MiG-29 aircraft was decommissioned last summer and most of them are no longer operational. It sends those who are operational and the rest go for spare parts.

Slovakia will also provide part of its KUB air defense system, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said.

“Today, the government decided and unanimously approved an international agreement (on the donation),” Heger said.

“The process of transferring these fighter jets is being closely coordinated with the Polish side, with Ukraine and, of course, with other allies,” he said.

Slovakia receives financial compensation from the European Union. It has also reached an agreement with the United States on supplies of military equipment worth about $700 million, Heger said.

NATO allies in the former communist east, such as Poland and Slovakia, have been particularly vocal supporters of Kiev since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

On Thursday, Poland announced it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days, making it Kiev’s first ally to provide such aircraft.

Western countries that have supplied Ukraine with weapons have so far refused to send fighter jets.

Slovakia ordered F-16 fighter jets from the United States in 2018 to replace its aging MiG-29 aircraft. The first US-made planes are expected to arrive in 2024, with delays.

Heger’s government is ruling in a caretaker capacity until snap elections scheduled for September have left the opposition and even some members of the ruling coalition questioning whether the cabinet is allowed to decide on something like the MiGs.

Heger said legal experts consulted by his government all said the move was legally sound.

Report by Robert Muller in Prague; Written by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Edited by Andrew Cawthorne and Angus MacSwan

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