Slovakia can start talks on sending MiG-29 jets to Ukraine: PM

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Slovakia can start the process of talks on delivering MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine now once Kyiv has officially asked for the planes, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Friday.

Western countries that have provided Ukraine with arms have so far refused to send fighter jets or long-range weapons capable of striking deep inside Russia.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday he had heard from several European Union leaders at a summit that they were ready to provide Kyiv with aircraft, hinting at what would be one of the biggest shifts yet in Western support for Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian president asked me to deliver the MiGs. Now, because this official request has come, the process of negotiations can be started,” Heger said.

The negotiations will be both internal and also with the European Commission, because Slovakia could have the delivery reimbursed, Heger said.

“Our MIGs can save innocent lives in Ukraine,” he said.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said the country no longer needed the jets and it could either sell them somewhere else, or give them to Ukraine where the planes could help. He said no decision had been taken yet.

The 12 Russian-made jets have been grounded since last summer, and they are in varying conditions.

The Slovak government ordered F-16 fighter jets from the United States in 2018 to replace the ageing MiG-29 planes.

The first US-made planes were expected to arrive last year and shipment was meant to be completed this year, but delivery is now expected to take place in 2024.

Slovakia borders Ukraine in the east and has been an entry point for refugees fleeing the fighting during the near year-long war. Bratislava has also backed Kyiv with weapons and other aid, while NATO is boosting its presence in Slovakia.

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