Ukrainian serviceman looks on inside a tank at a position near a frontline in Zaporizhzhia region Ukrainian serviceman looks on inside a tank at a position near a frontline in Zaporizhzhia region 

Tension increases over deliveries of warplanes to Ukraine

Slovakia and Poland have confirmed they are delivering fighter planes to wartorn Ukraine despite warnings from Moscow that this will further escalate the armed conflict. At the same time, nearby Hungary has again postponed a vote on the expansion of the NATO military alliance adding to tensions within a grouping of four Central and Eastern European countries.

By Stefan J. Bos

They may be older, but they still attract many visitors. Slovakia's prime minister has confirmed that his country will donate more than a dozen Soviet-era warplanes to Ukraine following a similar move by Poland.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said that the government "unanimously decided" to deliver 13 MiG-29 aircraft "and part of the KUB air defense system." However, he tried to play down criticism, adding: "We made a decision in a constitutionally pure form, in accordance with the constitution."    

The move came one day after Poland pledged to send four MiG-29 warplanes that Ukrainian pilots were trained to fly.

The decision by Slovakia and Poland to deliver these fighter jets came despite warnings by Russia that it would destroy any warplane given to Ukraine by its allies.

The move also added to tensions within the Visegrad Group, a political and cultural alliance comprised of Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Of all four nations, Hungary arguably has the closest ties with Russia. However, it has refused to deliver any weapons to Ukraine, saying it prefers a ceasefire and peace talks.

Hungary also opposed several sanctions against Moscow.

Nato expansion?

And besides Turkey, Hungary is the only European member state of NATO that has still not ratified the enlargement of the military alliance to include Finland and Sweden.  

Hungary's main ruling Fidesz party said it was only prepared to vote on the issue on March 31 after postponing the ratification several times.

Some Hungarian lawmakers raised doubts about whether to support the NATO membership applications by Sweden and Finland, citing what they call "blatant lies" from Stockholm and Helsinki about Hungary's perceived violations of the rule of law and democratic standards. 

Ironically Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced Friday that his country would agree with Finland's membership.

As the political wrangling continues, so does the bloodshed in Ukraine. In addition, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russia's president Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes, potentially complicating his travel plans.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians are believed to have been killed or wounded, while millions were displaced.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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18 March 2023, 16:47