Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovakia is emerging as a key military partner of Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion of the country.
After weeks of speculation and negotiations, the Slovak government confirmed last week it had donated its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine to bolster its defence capabilities against Russian forces.
“I can confirm that the Slovak Republic has donated the S-300 air defence system to Ukraine, following Ukraine’s request for assistance,” Prime Minister Eduard Heger wrote in a social media post on Friday.
“The donation of the system does not mean that the Slovak Republic has become part of the armed conflict in Ukraine,” he said, added that he hoped the move “will help save the lives of as many innocent Ukrainians as possible.”
The announcement came on the same day Heger visited Kyiv and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky alongside EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, joining the small but growing list of EU and NATO leaders to travel to Ukraine since the start of the war.
The Czech, Polish and Slovenian Prime Ministers were the first to make the trip to besieged Kyiv in March. Last week also saw the UK’s Boris Johnson and Austria’s Karl Nehammer travel to Ukraine to meet with President Zelensky.
Slovakia’s donation of its only S-300 air defence system to Ukraine was made possible after it received assurances from Washington to have it immediately replaced with the US Patriot missile system and avoid a “security gap” in NATO’s eastern flank defences.
In late March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had threatened Slovakia not to go ahead with the delivery, saying the move would violate a 1990 treaty between then Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union and warning that air defence batteries would become a “legitimate military target” in the eyes of Moscow.
Slovakia seemed undeterred by the thinly veiled threat and pledged additional humanitarian and military support to Kyiv authorities.
On Sunday, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia could sell Ukraine some of its Zuzana self-propelled howitzers, a sign NATO countries are increasingly willing to send heavy artillery and weaponry as Russian forces regroup and prepare for another offensive in the east.