May 20. 2024. 10:47

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Slovak government divided on Ukraine’s call for jets


Slovakia is willing to deliver grounded Soviet-made jets to Ukraine, according to acting Prime Minister Eduard Heger, though members within his government, and opposition parties leading the polls ahead of September’s snap elections, doubt his enthusiasm.

During the last EU summit in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly called on EU countries to send Ukraine fighter jets. Heger confirmed his country would participate in the call and that negotiations with Ukraine and the European Commission would start immediately.

While this would be the most significant aid from Slovakia since it handed over the S-300 air-defence system last spring, Heger’s enthusiasm and belief that Slovakia would get reimbursed for sending jets is not enough to convince opposition parties.

“Be that as it may, we can help further, but fighter aircraft are highly sophisticated combat systems and we should move forward together with our NATO partners,” Peter Pellegrini, the leader of the strongest opposition party HLAS-SD, said. According to Heger, such help cannot be coordinated with NATO as that would mean involvement in the conflict.

However, Robert Fico, the leader of Smer-SD, another opposition party doing well in the polls, claims Heger’s promise to Zelenskyy is unconstitutional.

Fico also pointed out that Heger’s government lost the support of the National Council and does not have the authority to make such a decision. Fico also wants to initiate a National Council meeting which would agree on a resolution preventing the government from giving fighter jets to Ukraine.

Members of Heger’s own government are also sceptical.

Employment Minister Milan Krajniak (We are Family) said he does not support the one-sided delivery and would like to coordinate among Visegrad countries.

Slovakia has 11 Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets which have been grounded since September. These can still be made functional for Ukrainians as there is a factory where specific spare parts can be made, Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) said.

According to Naď, Ukrainians are also interested in KUB air defence equipment.

(Michal Hudec | EURACTIV.sk)