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Poland to Deliver MiG-29s to Ukraine Despite Russian Opposition

Poland is set to be the first NATO country to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, as Polish President Andrzej Duda announced on Thursday that four Mikoyan MiG-29s will be delivered in the next few days.[0] The announcement comes amidst escalating tensions with Russia, who has threatened to destroy any aircraft sent to Ukraine.[1] The Pentagon has also released video of a Russian fighter jet coming close to a US Reaper drone, spraying it with fuel before it crashed into the Black Sea.[2]

Slovakia has also pledged to send Ukraine thirteen MiG-29s, while Finland and the Netherlands have said they would consider supplying warplanes.[3] However, the US and UK have so far refused to supply F-16s and Typhoons, citing that they require too much training, ground support and long, smooth runways to be of any immediate assistance to Ukraine.[4] China’s President Xi Jinping is also expected to travel to Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin, where he may speak to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the matter.[5]

Poland currently has 28 MiG-29s, which are being replaced by US-made planes and F-35s, while Slovakia’s MiG-29 fleet is due to be replaced with 14 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 jets.[6] The Biden administration previously rejected Poland’s backfill request to transfer “used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities” so Polish MiG-29s could be sent to Ukraine.[6]

In response to Poland’s announcement, the White House said it was a “sovereign decision” and would not prompt President Joe Biden to supply Kyiv with American F-16 aircraft.[7] Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov had previously said that sooner delivery of fighter jets would save more lives, while Prime Minister Eduard Heger of Estonia said that his government was “on the right side of history” in deciding to send fighter jets.[7]

Polish authorities have also arrested nine members of a Russian spy ring accused of monitoring deliveries of weapons and aid to Ukraine, and plotting to sabotage the deliveries.[5] Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński said the group had received payments from Russian special services.[0] The drone incident on Tuesday further escalated tensions, as the US Defense Chief Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart about the incident.

0. “Poland to launch MiG-29 deliveries to Ukraine within days” Defense News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2023/03/16/poland-could-launch-mig-29-deliveries-to-ukraine-within-days/

1. “Russia pledges to destroy fighter jets sent to Ukraine” RTE.ie, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.rte.ie/news/2023/0317/1363763-ukraine/

2. “Latest updates: Inquiry accuses Russia of war crimes in Ukraine” Al Jazeera English, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/3/16/russia-ukraine-live-no-signs-kyiv-will-leave-bakhmut-russia

3. “Ukraine should receive enough weapons to liberate its land – Duda” Ukrinform, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-ato/3683679-ukraine-should-receive-enough-weapons-to-liberate-its-land-duda.html

4. “Poland to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine in major escalation of military backing” The Guardian, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/16/ukraine-poland-fighter-jets-mig-29

5. “Ukraine Latest: Poland to Send Soviet-Era Jets; US Drone Video” Yahoo News, 17 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-latest-eu-broaden-efforts-090307605.html

6. “To help Ukraine, UK explores supplying Eurofighter Typhoons to European MiG-29 operators” Breaking Defense, 14 Mar. 2023, https://breakingdefense.com/2023/03/to-help-ukraine-uk-explores-supplying-eurofighter-typhoons-to-european-mig-29-operators

7. “Slovakia agrees to give Ukraine fleet of Soviet warplanes” WMUR Manchester, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.wmur.com/article/slovakia-agrees-to-give-ukraine-fleet-of-soviet-warplanes/43346921

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