Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said Monday that Slovakia is in talks with its allies about an arrangement to send Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine as NATO is working to send heavier equipment to be used in the war against Russia.
Last week, Slovakia announced that it sent a Soviet-designed S-300 missile defense system to Ukraine. In exchange, the US is deploying a Patriot missile system to Slovakia. The Slovak government is looking for a similar deal when it comes to the MiGs, and Heger said Slovakia wants to phase out the Soviet weapons.
Heger said Slovakia “cannot sustain” Soviet equipment without a “relationship” with Moscow. “This is equipment that we want to finish anyway because we’re waiting for the F-16s,” he said. In 2018, Slovakia signed a deal to purchase US-made F-16 fighter jets, but they aren’t expected to be delivered until 2024.
The Slovak prime minister said he wants guarantees from allies about the protection of Slovak airspace if the country gives up its MiG-29s. “After that, we can consider speaking about this equipment in regard with Ukraine as well,” Heger said. He said Ukraine is also seeking Zuzana self-propelled howitzers, which are made by Slovakia.
As part of the NATO effort to send more heavy equipment to Ukraine, the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall is prepared to send Ukraine 50 used Leopard 1 battle tanks. Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger said the company could deliver the tanks through its subsidiary Rheinmetall Italia if the German government gives permission.
Ukrainian forces are only trained to use Soviet-designed tanks, but Papperger said they could be trained to use the Leopard 1s in just a few days. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss recently said that NATO allies agreed that they should work towards Ukraine being able to use NATO equipment. On Sunday, Lithuania announced that it was starting a training program for Ukrainian troops.