Poland’s president said Thursday that his country plans to give Ukraine around a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, which would make it the first NATO member to fulfill the Ukrainian government’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 their number can mean between 11 and 19.
“They are in the last years of their functioning but they are in good working condition,” Duda said of the aircraft.
Duda did not say whether other countries would be making the same move, although Slovakia has said it would send its disused MiGs to Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries with MiGs also had pledged them to Kyiv, but he did not name them.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for Western supporters to share fighter jets, NATO allies have expressed hesitancy.
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s it inherited in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it’s unclear how many of them remain in service after more than a year of fighting.
The debate over whether to provide non-NATO country Ukraine with fighter jets was initiated over a year ago, but NATO has been wary of making the war escalate.
Duda made the announcement during a joint news conference in Warsaw with the visiting Czech president, Petr Pavel.
Duda said 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 was also the first NATO nation to hand German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, last month.
Poland is a crucial ally in the Ukraine crisis. It is hosting thousands of American troops and is taking in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine than any other nation, in the midst of the largest European refugee crisis in decades.
It has suffered invasions and occupations by Russia for centuries and still fears Russia despite being a member of NATO.