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Poland to become first NATO member to send jets to Ukraine after Zelenskyy's urgent pleas
16 March 2023, 14:46
Poland is to become the first NATO member to send fighter planes to support Ukraine - in the form of a dozen MiG-29 jets.
Poland's president Andrzej Duda said his country would send Ukraine four of the Soviet-made warplanes "within the next few days", but said the rest will need servicing first.
"They are in the last years of their functioning but they are in good working condition," Mr Duda said.
Mr Duda did not say whether other countries would follow in sending fighter jets to Ukraine, though Slovakia has said it will send its disused MiGs to Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries with MiGs had also pledged them to Kyiv, but he did not name them.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded for western supporters to share fighter jets, but NATO allies have been hesitant.
The debate over whether to provide non-Nato country Ukraine with fighter jets was initiated over a year ago, but the alliance has been wary of making the war escalate.
Mr Duda previously said that handing the warring nation jets would be a "very serious" decision that would be "not easy" to take.
In February, the Ukrainian president appealed to the UK Parliament as he said labelled potential British fighter "wings for freedom".
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "nothing was off the table" when it comes to supporting Ukraine, but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appeared to cast doubt on sending jets in the short-term.
But Russia has threatened a "response" if the Government does supply the war-torn country with jets, with some Nato states concerned about provoking a direct clash with Putin's forces.
The Russian Embassy in London made a strong warning against the UK supplying the aircraft, saying Britain would bear responsibility "for another twist of escalation and the ensuing military-political consequences for the European continent and the entire world".
Mr Sunak said that if the UK was to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, conversations would need to happen with allies who provide the aircraft.
The prime minister said previously: "There is a supply chain around such sophisticated aircraft.
"Those are conversations that the president and I are having and making sure we understand all the supply chain needs that go alongside aircraft like that - making sure they can be used and used safely, kept safely.
"And it is also a conversation we are having with our allies because, particularly some of the aircraft we have, are done through joint treaty with multiple other countries - I think we have seen that with previous bits of kit that others have had to give."
The Polish leader said his air force will replace the planes it gives to Ukraine with South Korea-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s.
Poland was the first Nato nation to hand German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine last month.
Poland is a crucial ally in the Ukraine crisis. It is hosting thousands of American troops and is taking in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine than any other nation, in the midst of the largest European refugee crisis in decades.
Before Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s inherited in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it is unclear how many remain in service after more than a year of fighting.