The Kremlin wants to destroy Ukrainian jets after Poland and Slovakia made commitments

  • By Jonathan Beale, defense correspondent, and Robert Greenall
  • BBC news

image source, Getty Images

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Poland pledged four MiG-29 jets on Thursday

The Kremlin has threatened to destroy all fighter jets given to Ukraine by its allies after two countries promised Soviet-era aircraft.

Slovakia became the second NATO country to pledge some MiG-29 aircraft to Kiev on Friday, one day after Poland.

The Slovak fleet was grounded last year and no longer uses the jets.

Ukraine has asked Western countries for modern jets, but due to long training times these are only seen as long-term options.

It considers additional aircraft important for its defense and possible counter-attacks, one year after the invasion of Russia.

Other NATO countries are considering sending Soviet-era aircraft such as the MiG, which Ukrainian pilots have been trained to fly.

This is a positive step for Ukraine – which has more pilots than planes – but will not make a decisive difference.

Yuri Sak, a senior Ukrainian defense adviser, says the fourth-generation fighters have better capabilities.

That still seems unlikely — at least for now, since it would take time to train Ukrainian pilots on Western jets.

Western military officers remain skeptical of modern fighters – their focus is on helping Ukraine win the battle on the ground.

The front lines are overrun with air defense systems on both sides. Russia’s air force is much larger than Ukraine’s and has not gained control of its airspace.

Washington has condemned the Russian actions, saying one of the Su-27 jets clipped the drone, as reckless, but Moscow says the drone failed on its own.

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Watch: The US releases footage from its drone of the encounter with a Russian plane

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the NATO countries’ plans, saying the plane would not affect the outcome of Moscow’s “special military operation,” as it calls the war, but would only “bring additional misery to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people”.

“Of course, all this equipment will be destroyed during the special military operation,” he added.

At the beginning of the large-scale invasion of Russia, Ukraine is said to have about 120 combat aircraft – mainly obsolete MiG-29s and Su-27s.

He said that “promises must be kept” and that he was pleased that others heeded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for more guns.

He said Slovakia would also send Ukraine part of its Kub air defense system.

On Thursday, Poland promised four MiG-29s, which will be shipped in the coming days, but more are expected to follow.

As with its promise of Leopard tanks, it has broken a barrier. A step that no one wanted to take a year ago.

It is not clear how many of the Slovak aircraft are operational.

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