Poland’s president on Wednesday pledged to send 14 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine after welcoming president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Warsaw for a state visit to strengthen ties between the neighbouring nations.
The fresh pledge follows Poland’s delivery of four of its Soviet-built jets after it agreed last month to make the first shipment of combat aircraft by a Nato nation, raising the level of western military support to Kyiv. Slovakia followed suit and is sending 13 MiG-29 jets.
Poland’s president Andrzej Duda on Wednesday said Warsaw would soon hand over four more jets and that another six were “now in preparation” and would be delivered as soon as possible.
Once Poland receives substitute Korean and US fighter jets that it has ordered, Duda said, “I believe that in the future we will be able to transfer our entire remaining MiG fleet to Ukraine, should the need arise.” Poland had 28 MiG jets before it began sending the aircraft to Ukraine, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Poland has played a major role in galvanising western military support for Ukraine and has hosted 1.5mn Ukrainian refugees, according to United Nations statistics.
Zelenskyy used his visit to highlight the fact that “never in history have there been such warm relations between our countries”. But his arrival in Warsaw coincided with the resignation of Poland’s agriculture minister amid a dispute over grain imported from Ukraine.
Henryk Kowalczyk stepped down after Polish farmers condemned his government’s inability to stop cheaper Ukrainian grain from flooding the domestic market after the EU scrapped customs duties and quotas on grain imports from Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion.
The minister blamed the European Commission for failing to meet “the basic demands of farmers”, after Poland joined four EU nations to demand more financial compensation for farmers from the bloc. They also sought the return of farm export restrictions that were lifted last year to help Ukraine’s economy.
Protesting farmers on Wednesday blocked the city centre of Szczecin, on Poland’s northern coast, extending demonstrations that have lasted for two weeks.
Following a separate meeting with Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Zelenskyy said “we have found a way out of this situation, in the coming days, weeks it will be finally resolved”.
Zelenskyy was accompanied by first lady Olena Zelenska on the couple’s first overseas trip together since February of last year, and just the third trip outside Ukraine for Zelenskyy since Moscow’s full-scale invasion. It was also the first time since the invasion that the president’s travel plans were announced ahead of time.
Zelenskyy also met Ukrainian refugees. He was due to end his day-long visit with a speech to Ukrainians and Poles at Warsaw’s royal castle.