- Poland will be the first NATO member to supply about a dozen fighter jets to Ukraine.
- Polish President Andrzej Duda’s decision fulfills a longstanding request from President Zelenskyy.
- The promise of the jets comes as Ukraine gears up for a spring offensive expected from Russia.
Poland will be the first NATO member to supply about a dozen fighter jets to Ukraine to support Kyiv in resisting the Russian invasion.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced in Warsaw on Thursday that four Soviet-era MiG-29 warplanes will be sent over to Kyiv “within the next few days,” per the Associated Press.
The total number of planes supplied by Poland will range between 11 to 19, per the AP. The rest will be sent over after they have been serviced, Duda said at a news conference with Petr Pavel, the president of the neighboring Czech Republic.
“They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition,” Duda said of the jets.
This makes Poland the first NATO member to supply fighter jets to Ukraine. This plea for fighter jets has been a longstanding request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Slovakia, Finland, and the Netherlands had also previously said that they would send some of their planes, per The Guardian, but they have not yet outlined when the planes will reach Ukraine.
The delivery of jets comes as Ukraine gears up for what is expected to be a fierce spring offensive from Russia.
After a year of fierce fighting, Ukraine is quickly burning through its dwindling ammunition supplies — and Western military aid is essential if it is to launch an effective counter-offensive against Russia, The Washington Post reported.
But Poland’s decision to supply military jets to Ukraine may not push other allies to do the same. A White House representative said President Joe Biden has not changed his mind on not giving Ukraine fighter jets. The US has fulfilled Zelenskyy’s requests for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and M1 Abrams battle tanks.
“There’s no change in our view with respect to fighter aircraft at this time,” White House spokesman John Kirby, per the AP. “That is our sovereign decision. That is where we are, other nations can speak to their own decisions.”
For their part, senior US Air Force officials said in March that fighter jets are “worthless” over Ukraine because Russia and Ukraine have mastered long-range missile defense, which prevents them from providing air support closer to enemy frontlines.
“The problem is both of the Russian as well as the Ukrainian success in integrated air and missile defense have made much of those aircraft worthless,” said Gen. James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, to reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association symposium on March 6.
But Zelenskyy said in an address to the UK Parliament in February that “the sooner our pilots get planes, the sooner this Russian aggression will end and we can return to peace in Europe,” The Washington Post reported.
Representatives for Duda did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, sent outside of regular business hours.