Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic will send over warplanes to neighbouring Slovakia from September, Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced a few days after Prague took over the rotating EU presidency.
Starting in two months, Czech fighter jets will protect the Slovak airspace, authorities from the two countries confirmed, allowing Bratislava to send its own fleet of MiG-29s to Ukraine.
“We will help Slovakia until it has new planes at its disposal,” Fiala said during an appearance on Czech television alongside Slovak counterpart Eduard Heger. “And we expect that someone will also help us if we have problems.”
Slovakia has long been negotiating with Kyiv to send its fleet of Soviet-made MiG-29s to bolster Ukraine’s air defences against Russia, at the same time appealing to NATO allies to make up for the transfer.
Bratislava officially asked the Czech government in June for assistance in patrolling its skies. In May, Poland had also offered to use its own war planes to secure the country’s airspace “the moment Slovakia decides to ground the MiG-29s jets”.
As part of a $800-million deal inked with the US in 2018, Slovakia is set to replace its MiG-29s with 14 American-made F-16 fighter jets, but the first batch is only expected to be delivered in 2024.
PM Eduard Heger said Slovakia could need the Czech Republic’s help in defending its airspace for about one year, and confirmed that negotiations were still ongoing for the delivery of its combat jets – and possibly tanks – to Ukraine.
“But I don’t want to go into details, because Ukraine also asked us not to reveal information about this equipment,” Heger added.
Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia – the latter sharing a small land border with Ukraine – have been among the fiercest advocates in the EU in favour of providing significant military aid to Ukraine since the first days of Moscow’s invasion.