Slovak government approves plan to send Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets

Slovakia’s government on Friday approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member country to respond to the Ukrainian government’s requests for fighter jets to defend against the Russian invasion follows.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said during a press conference announcing the decision that his government was “on the right side of history”. Earlier, Heger tweeted that military aid is key to ensure Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia.

Poland announced Thursday it would give Ukraine about a dozen MiG-29s, starting with four, to be delivered in the coming days. Both Poland and Slovakia had previously indicated they were ready to accede to Ukraine’s demands for military planes, but only as part of a broader international coalition.

Heger said his government’s move was “closely coordinated with the Polish side, Ukraine and other allies.”


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the promised planes are another example of NATO members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict.”

“The supplies, of course, will not affect the outcome of the special military operation, but they could bring even more misfortune to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.

Slovakia will receive $213 million in compensation from the European Union and $745 million worth of unspecified weapons from the United States in return for handing over its MiG-29 fleet to Ukraine, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said.

The Slovak government approved a plan to give Ukraine a fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets. Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced the decision on March 17, 2023. (Jozef Durník/TASR via AP, file)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked Western countries for fighter jets, but NATO allies have held back, citing concerns about an escalation of the alliance’s role in the war.

Responding to Poland’s announcement on Thursday, the White House said Warsaw’s move did not affect President Joe Biden, who has defied calls to deliver US F-16s to Ukraine, and that it was up to other nations to use theirs to explain their own positions.

Michał Baranowski, executive director of Warsaw-based GMF East, part of think tank German Marshall Fund, said changing conditions now allow such a move as Ukraine was initially reluctant to respond to the request.

“Many red lines have been crossed since that discussion last year,” Baranowski told The Associated Press over the phone. Shipping MiGs now “is not the same difficult political sale as last year.”


Ukraine will be able to use the MiGs immediately without training.

Zelenskyy appealed directly to Heger for planes at an EU summit in Brussels last month.

Slovakia grounded its MiGs over the summer for lack of spare parts and know-how to service them after Russian technicians returned home. Lacking aircraft of their own, NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic stepped in to patrol Slovakian airspace.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s, which it inherited when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but it’s unclear how many are still in service after more than a year of fighting.

Slovakia’s government, which made the decision to sign a bilateral deal with Ukraine for the Jets, has limited powers after a no-confidence vote in December toppled the coalition government formed after the country’s 2020 election.


The next election is scheduled for September, when the opposition has a good chance of winning. Its leaders include populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who opposes military support for Ukraine and EU sanctions on Russia, saying the Slovakian government has no mandate to supply fighter jets to Ukraine.

Opposition parties, including Fico’s Smer Social Democracy party, rejected the government’s decision on Friday and threatened to sue.

Slovakia signed a deal to buy 14 US F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets, but deliveries were pushed back two years to early 2024.

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