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Poland will not send fighter jets to Ukraine, the country said on Tuesday – the latest in a series of similar denials from EU countries that have highlighted early confusion over what that the bloc’s new military support for Kiev will actually encompass.
Besides Poland, the Bulgarian and Slovak governments have also recently ruled out the delivery of military aircraft to Ukraine. However, at the same time, a Ukrainian official claimed as recently as Monday that Ukrainian pilots had left the country to recover planes donated by EU countries.
Such contradictory remarks marred the turbulent early days of the EU’s attempt to serve as a logistical coordinator for the delivery of military aid to Ukraine as it faces a growing Russian invasion. In a historic move, the EU said on Sunday it would play a much stronger role in getting weapons and other military equipment from its members to Ukraine, even using 450 million euros in EU funding. EU to help fund the effort.
Monday evening, a A Ukrainian official said pilots had arrived in Poland to receive military aircraft from EU partners. The aircraft in question were Soviet-era jets like the Mig-29, which Ukrainian pilots are already trained to fly. The Ukrainian parliament has even specified the donations: Europe, it tweetedsent 70 combat aircraft in total, including 28 MiG-29s from Poland, 12 from Slovakia and 16 from Bulgaria, as well as 14 Su-25s from Bulgaria.
This is not the case, the countries said.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov explained that his country had a shortage of working planes and parts and did not have enough fighter jets to protect its own airspace, let alone lend planes to Ukraine, a Bulgarian official told POLITICO. A spokesman for the Slovak Defense Ministry also denied any donations on Tuesday: “Slovakia will not supply fighter jets to Ukraine,” the spokesman said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda joined the chorus on Tuesday. Speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Łask Air Base in Poland, Duda said his country “will not send any jets into Ukrainian airspace”, arguing that ” this would open up military interference in the Ukrainian conflict”.
NATO, Duda stressed, is not a party to Russia’s war in Ukraine – a key caveat the military alliance has tried to make despite several of its members supplying Ukraine’s military lethal weapons while hitting Moscow with crippling sanctions.
However, Duda’s comments weren’t entirely clear. He did not specify whether his refusal referred to the fact that Poland was not sending fighter jets operated by Polish pilots to Ukraine – which would in effect mean overt military interference in the war – or whether his refusal referred more broadly to any potential delivery of Polish fighter jets to Ukraine. .
Hours later, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued a more blunt denial.
“Poland has no such plans,” he told a news conference.
Talk of European fighter jet deliveries was sparked by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who went off-script at a press conference on Sunday to refer to the possibility.
“We are going to supply…even fighter jets” to Ukraine, he said, adding that some EU countries have the “types of aircraft” Ukraine needs to fight Russia. Borrell even suggested that such planes could be funded by EU money.
On Monday, however, Borrell had to publicly backtrack: in another press conference, he acknowledged that while the fighter jets were “part of the request for help we received from Ukraine”, the EU did not have sufficient financial means to pay for these planes, which should instead be donated “bilaterally” by the various EU countries.
According to EU diplomats, Borrell informally asked Bulgaria, Poland and Romania – some of the few EU countries still using Soviet-era fighter jets – if they could potentially deliver planes to Kiev. A Romanian official did not comment on demand or potential deliveries.
An EU diplomat said EU countries were “outraged” by Borrell’s public statement about the delivery of the fighter jet, which had not been agreed.
“Making such announcements on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced to put his nuclear deterrent on ‘high alert’ risks further escalating the situation,” the EU diplomat said, adding that while countries had considered sending planes to Ukraine, these plans could have been canceled after Borrell made them public.
The frustration and mixed messages were perhaps a predictable side effect of the EU, by definition a peace project, trying to move quickly into the realm of military procurement. Borrell explained the move on Monday, saying the EU would put in place an institutional framework to ensure better logistical coordination of EU arms deliveries to Ukraine.
“We have created a clearinghouse to track Ukrainian requests, in one place, their needs and offers from our member states, to ensure maximum efficiency and coordination of our support,” he said. declared. “And in doing so, this cell, this clearing house, will work in coordination with NATO.”
Borrell also added that Brussels would provide military intelligence to Ukraine, feeding the country’s armed forces with “geo-spatial” information on Russian troop movements.
“We are mobilizing our satellite center, which is located in Madrid,” Borrell told reporters.