The president of Poland has told Sky News that Ukraine will need fighter jets to see off the threat from Russia.
In an exclusive interview during his visit to the UK, Andrzej Duda also warned that Vladimir Putin is trying to exhaust the West in his effort to defeat Ukraine.
President Duda has previously insisted NATO must decide whether or not to send modern warplanes to Ukraine by consensus across the alliance.
But in this interview he seemed more forthright. Following a recent meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Polish president said he now believes Ukraine should be sent modern fighter jets in due course to see off Russian aggression.
“They’ll also need modern planes, fighter jets in the future. Everything that will allow them to have a technological upper hand over the Russian armed forces is valuable right now,” he said.
Poland has been among the most active allies pushing for more arms to be supplied to Ukraine, but this is the first time its president has acknowledged Ukraine should be given modern fighter jets in the future.
But he said it cannot happen for some time, not least because Ukrainian pilots require training and logistical challenges must be overcome.
MIG-29s could be used in the first place
Older Soviet-era Polish MIG-29s could be sent earlier, he said.
“These planes are planes that Ukrainian pilots are able to operate on a daily basis because this is the kind of equipment they fly,” he added.
“So donating that equipment to Ukraine in the first place will already provide support to Ukraine because they will counterbalance the Russians to a certain degree.”
Sky News military analyst Air Vice Marshall Sean Bell said MIGs would be far more useful in the short term for the Ukrainian air force.
“Learning to fly, and then operate, modern western fighters like the F-16 takes years of intense training,” he said. “The Ukrainian air force is already familiar with the MIG-29 – not only flying but also maintaining and supporting.
“Providing additional MIG-29s, and perhaps also some training – on simulators and in the air – and spares support, to the Ukrainians would be a timely and welcome capability enhancement.”
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Mr Duda met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the first time during his visit to the UK and will meet his French and German counterparts at the Munich security conference in Germany.
Next week he hosts the US President Joe Biden at events in Poland marking the one-year anniversary of the invasion.
‘West must stay true to the cause’
He has a stark message for his allies. Stay true to the cause and do not flag in your support for Ukraine, or you will face dire consequences.
“Vladimir Putin is looking for his chance to exhaust the West,” he said. “He hopes that they will stop helping Ukraine and give up on Ukraine. This is something that he counts on”.
“If we allow this to happen, we will have another war soon because I’m convinced that Russia will attack another state. I have no doubt about that.”
A year ago the Polish president was in Ukraine meeting his Ukrainian counterpart when intelligence reports confirmed their worst fears that the invasion was about to begin.
His motorcade sped back to Poland in a race to leave the country before the Russian tanks rolled in.
A year on he says he does not believe the war is anywhere near over and will still be going on 12 months from now.
If the West does not keep up its staunch support for Ukraine, he says, the conflict could yet worsen and spread to other countries too.