The Czech Republic will patrol Slovakian airspace from September, allowing Bratislava to ship its fighter jets to Ukraine
Slovakia may donate its Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, after the Czech Republic agreed to patrol Slovak airspace from September, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Sunday. The MiG deal is said to have been in the works for several months.
“We will help Slovakia until they have new planes at their disposal”, Fiala during a televised debate with Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger. “I see no problem with it, the government will certainly approve it.”
The Slovak Air Force is believed to operate 12 MiG-29s, which were left in its inventory after the collapse of the USSR. Rumors that Slovakia would donate the planes to Kyiv began circulating days after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February, when EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said announced that the bloc would supply Soviet-made aircraft to Eastern European countries for the Ukrainian Air Force.
Borrell’s plan never materialized, with Poland and Bulgaria – two other operators of Soviet aircraft – never sending their planes to Ukraine. However, Heger said in April that he would be ready to hand over his country’s dozen MiGs, if Slovakia’s allies agreed to cover its defense needs until the MiGs were replaced by US warplanes. .
The Slovak MiGs were originally scheduled to be replaced by 14 American-made F-16 fighters this year, but the delivery date has since been pushed back to 2024.
The United States crushed a Polish plan to transfer its own Soviet fighters to Ukraine in March, but the Pentagon said in April that it “definitely wouldn’t object” the Slovak regime. However, no progress towards sending the MiGs to Ukraine has been announced since.
With the deal now apparently done, questions remain over how Slovakia would actually transfer the jets across its eastern border with Ukraine. Flying these planes into Ukraine from a Slovak base could be seen by Moscow as an act of war, dragging NATO into open conflict with Russia. On the other hand, delivering the planes overland could risk the transport vehicles being targeted by Russian planes or missiles once they enter Ukrainian territory.
Slovakia has given more than $160 million in military aid to Ukraine since February and opened its repair yards to damaged Ukrainian military vehicles. Bratislava last month sent five Soviet-built helicopters and thousands of 122mm rockets to kyiv forces, and plans to send 30 T-72 tanks, if its allies provide suitable replacements.
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