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Poland will send fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO country to do so

MIG-29 fighter jets of the Polish Air Force take part in a NATO shielding exercise at the Lask Air Base on Oct. 12, 2022, in Lask, Poland.
MIG-29 fighter jets of the Polish Air Force take part in a NATO shielding exercise at the Lask Air Base on Oct. 12, 2022, in Lask, Poland.
Omar Marques/Getty Images

Polish President Andrzej Duda says his country will deliver four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in "the next few days," making Poland the first NATO country to supply fighter planes to Ukraine.

Ukraine has long urgently requested warplanes to fight Russian forces. Poland, one of Ukraine's staunchest supporters in its fight against Russia, has often taken the lead in persuading sometimes hesitant allies to provide Kyiv with heavy weapons. Duda hinted that Poland may send additional fighter jets in the coming weeks.

Slovakia, a fellow NATO member, is also likely to send planes in the coming weeks.

Ukraine has also been demanding U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets but has been repeatedly turned down. The U.S. says it would take too long to train Ukrainian pilots on them, and maintenance and logistics would be too complicated to manage during an ongoing conflict.

Unlike F-16s and other fighter jets, Ukraine has been flying Soviet-era MiG-29s for decades and could start using them right away.

In an interview with NPR earlier this year, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he was confident Ukraine would eventually get Western-made fighter jets.

Poland has about 28 MiG-29s and has been replacing them with more advanced U.S.-made planes and hopes to purchase cutting-edge F-35s.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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