Slovakia on Friday joined Poland in pledging to send Ukraine Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets, making the European countries the first two NATO members to provide warplanes to Kyiv.
Slovakia’s prime minister, Eduard Heger, said his country will provide Ukraine with 13 fighter jets. His announcement came a day after Polish President Andrzej Duda said Warsaw will send four MiG-29s in the coming days and that more would be delivered in the future.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the plans were an example of the NATO members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict.” But Peskov also downplayed the significance, saying the MiG-29s will not impact Russia’s war plans.
“The equipment deliveries naturally won’t have any impact on the outcome of the special military operation, but it may bring more misfortune to Ukraine and Ukrainian people,” Peskov said.
According to Slovakia’s Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad, the country will be receiving compensation from its allies for sending the MiG-29s to Ukraine. Slovakia will be granted $213 million from the EU and unspecified arms from the US worth $745 million.
The US has been encouraging the former Soviet republics who are in NATO to ditch their older Soviet-made equipment in exchange for Western-made arms. Slovakia signed a deal with the US in 2018 to purchase 14 F-16 fighter jets to replace their MiG-29s, and the F-16s are expected to be delivered in 2024.
Ukraine has been demanding F-16s and other Western-made fighter jets, but so far, no NATO countries have pledged to send more modern aircraft. But the provision of MiG-29s is still a major escalation of NATO involvement. The Pentagon rejected a Polish proposal to send MiG-29s to Ukraine last year, in March 2022, over escalation concerns. NATO diplomats said at the time that Russia could perceive the move as the alliance directly entering the war.