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Russian technicians, who were present at the Slovak air base in Sliač until last year, may have deliberately damaged Slovak MiG-29 jet fighters that Bratislava recently supplied to Ukraine.
“They were able to fly, but that doesn’t mean they were also capable of combat,” Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said after opposition leader Robert Fico criticized the transfer of the jets.
"The defects appeared only in those parts accessed by Russians,” Nad said.
Naď showed confidence, however, that the Ukrainian side will be able to make the aircraft fully operational.
“They have pilots, spare parts, and a company that has worked on MiGs since the Soviet times,” the minister told Denník N.
While the police investigation could not definitely prove intent on the side of the technicians, defects were found only in the aircraft parts accessed by the Russians.
The Russian experts were present in the country based on a long-term contract between Bratislava and Moscow. According to the Slovak Air Force General Ľubomír Svoboda, their presence was necessary for serious repairs, as they possessed greater know-how of MiGs than Slovak personnel.
This allowed the Slovak side to conduct high-level repairs at home rather than sending the jets to Russia.
However, Svoboda showed suspicions about their intent in an interview with Denník N: “They gave us an engine that was meant to work for 350 hours. It lasted only 70 hours.”
This is not the first time Slovakia had issues with Russian military hardware. The Slovak military was forced to ground its Mi-17 helicopters in 2018 due to “falsified repair documentation.”
Slovakia handed over all of its MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine on March 23.