Slovakia sends MIG-29 fighters to Ukraine – PM

March 17 (Reuters) – Slovakia on Friday became Ukraine’s second ally to supply MIG-29 fighter jets, which Kiev believes are crucial to countering Russia’s year-long offensive.

Slovakia joined Poland in announcing the delivery of the machines on Thursday. Both NATO members are neighbors of Ukraine.

Its fleet of 11 MiG-29s was decommissioned last summer, and most of them are not operational. It sends the ones that are operational and the rest go as spares.

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

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

“The process of handing over these fighters is closely coordinated with the Polish side, Ukraine and, of course, other allies,” he said.

Slovakia receives financial compensation from the European Union. It has also reached an agreement with the United States for the supply of military material 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.

Poland announced on Thursday that it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days, making it the first ally of Kiev to supply such aircraft.

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

Slovakia ordered F-16 fighter jets from the United States in 2018 to replace aging MiG-29s. The first US-made machines are expected to arrive in 2024 after a delay.

Heger’s government will rule as vice-president until early elections in September, prompting the opposition and even some in the ruling coalition to question whether the government can decide on matters such as the MiGs.

Heger said legal experts consulted by his government said the move made legal sense.

Reporting by Robert Muller in Prague; Screenplay by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Angus MacSwan

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