Several days after Ukraine and Slovakia agreed on the transfer of 13 Soviet-made MiG-29 jets, the first machines have left Slovakia.
"The first four MiG-29 fighter jets were safely handed over to the Ukrainian armed forces," Interim Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď said on Thursday afternoon.
He went on to say that Slovakia is standing on the right side.
"We are doing the right thing because it is Russia that invaded Ukraine, it is Russia that is in the territory of Ukraine, and the war would immediately end if Russia withdraws its troops," Naď continued.
Though Slovakia is a strong supporter of Ukraine, the interim government has faced criticism for its decision to send the jets to Ukraine. Some argue, including the opposition, that the Eduard Heger-led government is lacking power for such a move.
To date, the cabinet with limited competences has not published a legal analysis that reportedly allows for the transfer of fighter planes.
Jets out, helicopters in
As the defence minister further explained, it was Ukrainian pilots who flew the jets to Ukraine. Other jets will be handed over to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
"For operational reasons we will not provide any further information beforehand," Naď stressed.
In addition to the jets, Slovakia will provide Ukraine with part of the KUB air-defence system, following the conclusion of a deal on March 17. Since the invasion, the country's military aid to Ukraine has amounted to €170 million. Last April, for example, Slovakia donated its only S-300 air-defence system to Ukraine.
In exchange for the jets, Slovakia will receive 12 AH-1Z Viper combat helicopters and AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles from the USA. They should arrive in Slovakia in two years.
Some of the purchased but delayed F-16 jets should land in Slovakia next year.