WARSAW, POLAND (AP) – Poland said on Thursday it plans to give Ukraine about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, which would make it the first NATO member to fulfil Kyiv’s increasingly urgent requests for warplanes.
Warsaw will hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days”, President Andrzej Duda said, and the rest needed servicing but would be supplied later.
The Polish word he used to describe the total 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.
He did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia has said it would send its own disused MiGs to Ukraine. Poland also was the first NATO nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries also had pledged MiGs to Kyiv, but did not identify them. Both Poland and Slovakia had indicated they were ready to hand over their planes, but only as part of a wider international coalition doing the same.
The government in neighbouring NATO member Germany appeared caught off guard by Duda’s announcement. “So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets,” German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters. “I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this has happened.”
The White House called Poland’s move a sovereign decision and lauded the Poles for continuing to “punch above their weight” in assisting Kyiv, but it stressed the move would have no bearing on President Joe Biden, who has resisted calls to provide F-16s to Ukraine.
“There’s no change in our view with respect to fighter aircraft at this time,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.