Slovakia is in talks with allies over an agreement that could allow Bratislava to send fighter jets to Ukraine, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Monday.
Kyiv has asked Western governments for more weapons and equipment ahead of an expected new Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking to POLITICO after a trip to Ukraine late last week, Heger said his government had been asked to provide Ukraine with Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets and Slovakian-branded Zuzana self-propelled howitzers, with talks ongoing.
Heger said his government definitely wants to break away from its reliance on MiGs, as one “cannot sustain” Soviet equipment without a “relationship” with Russia.
“This is equipment that we want to finish anyway because we’re waiting for the F-16,” he said, referring to US-made jets that Slovakia is scheduled to receive in 2024.
He said Slovakia was “in a very intense discussion with our partners” about who would protect the country’s airspace. “After that,” he added, “we can consider talking about this equipment also in relation to Ukraine.”
Asked whether Slovakia could possibly transfer some planes to Ukraine if it receives certain guarantees from Western partners, he replied: “We are talking about that. Yes.”
Heger did not name how many MiGs Slovakia could hand over, the country is said to have around a dozen.
“We knew that [the] Ukrainians need as much help as possible,” Heger said of the S-300 decision. “That’s the equipment they have themselves,” he noted, adding, “They can operate it.”
“It was the right game, but we needed substitutes. And that’s when we got into discussions with the Americans,” he said.
With no quick end to the war in sight, some Western officials have suggested that Ukraine should refrain from using Soviet weapons. But such a move would raise the question of how – and where – Ukrainian troops would be trained to use Western weapons and systems.
When asked if his government would be open to allowing Ukrainian troops to train on Slovakian soil, Heger said: “We are having this discussion.”
Slovakia has in recent weeks become a staunch ally of the government in neighboring Ukraine, which is pushing for Kyiv’s accelerated bid for EU membership and offering to help the country in its bid for membership.
Heger said the European Union “cannot stop” and must “help Ukraine until it wins”.
And while Slovakia is heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, Heger said it is working to reduce its dependency.
“We are trying to do everything possible and to prepare for an early separation from Russian oil and gas,” said Heger.
“But we need solidarity,” he said. “We are at the end of the chain,” the prime minister noted, adding that Slovakia would demand “guarantees” from some countries that they “transit what we need – our people cannot be left without gas or oil”.
“I think oil is a little easier, gas is a little harder,” Heger said.
Sanctions, he added, “must hurt Putin more than us.”
“If they hurt us a lot more than Vladimir Putin did,” Heger warned, “then we actually helped Vladimir Putin — not Ukraine, not us — so that’s very important.”
https://www.politico.eu/article/slovakia-mig-jets-to-ukraine-prime-minister-eduard-heger-bratislava/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Slovakia in talks about possible transfer of MiG jets to Ukraine - POLITICO