Czech, Poland to protect Slovakia airspace

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AFP) — The Czech Republic and Poland will guard the airspace of neighboring Slovakia as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member bids farewell to its Russian-made MiG-29 planes before receiving United States hardware, its defense ministry said Saturday.

Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad, his Czech counterpart Jana Cernochova and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak signed a deal to that effect.

“The deal will come into force on 1 September, when Slovakia’s MiG-29 fighter jets will be grounded,” defense ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova said in a statement.

The ministry said earlier it would be decommissioning MiGs as their maintenance has become very costly and their Russian technicians are gradually leaving Slovakia.

In April, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his country could send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, but gave no details.

On 14 August, Nad denied reports that Slovakia had handed jets to Ukraine.

He said Slovakia is currently considering what to do with them, but no final decisions have been made.

The Czech Republic and Poland will protect Slovakia’s airspace until new US F-16 fighter jets are supplied to replace the MiG-29s, with delivery slated for 2024.

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