Poland has announced plans to give Ukraine a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO member to fulfil Kyiv’s request for warplanes to defend against Russian invasion.
Warsaw will initially hand over four Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days,” while the rest require servicing but will be supplied later.
The number of jets is unclear, with the Polish word used by President Andrzej Duda meaning between 11 and 19.
Duda noted that the planes were in good condition, although they are in the last years of their functioning.
Poland has been a key supporter of Ukraine during the conflict, previously supplying German-made Leopard 2 tanks and hosting thousands of US troops.
The nation has also taken in more Ukrainian refugees than any other country. Slovakia has also pledged to send disused MiGs to Ukraine.
On the other hand, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that sending fighter jets to Ukraine is not the best decision at the moment.
The announcement surprised NATO allies, and it’s unclear whether other nations will follow Poland’s lead.
Some countries have previously expressed concern about escalating the alliance’s role in the conflict.
Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s inherited from the Soviet Union, but it’s unknown how many remain in service after a year of fighting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked Western countries to share their warplanes, but NATO hesitated.
The White House called Poland’s move a sovereign decision and praised the nation for its assistance to Kyiv, but stated that it wouldn’t influence President Biden’s stance.
The US has been resisting calls to provide F-16s to Ukraine. Poland informed the US of its decision to provide MiGs before Duda’s announcement.
During the conflict, Poland has been concerned about Russian aggression, given its history of invasion and occupation by Russia.
As such, it still fears Russia despite being a NATO member.