Russian technicians may have been intentionally sabotaging the operation of Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets owned by the Slovak army, said Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď.
Mig-29 fighters are Soviet-made twin-engine aircraft that were part of the Slovak army as the legacy of the split of Czecho-Slovakia in 1993. Recently, they have been given to Ukraine, and the Slovak army has not used them since August 2022.
“They were able to fly, but that doesn’t mean they were also capable of combat. The Ukrainians came to Slovakia a week before their departure, brought spare parts and inspected the planes,” Naď explained after the opposition led by the Smer-SD party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico strongly criticised the government for giving up valuable aircraft.
The faults may have been intentionally caused by Russian technicians, which were present at Sliač air base in Slovakia until last year, Naď suggested.
“Even the police were investigating it, based on our suspicions. There were parts in the engines of the aircraft that Slovak technicians accessed, and then there were parts that Russian technicians only accessed. The defects appeared only in those parts accessed by Russians,” Naď said.
While the investigation did not prove intention, the Defence Ministry “felt a loss of confidence in the Russian technicians at Sliač because mistakes kept appearing in places only they could get to,” the minister added.
Lieutenant General Ľubomír Svoboda, the former highest-ranking pilot, also suggested that Russians intentionally damaged the jets.
“We took over an engine from them that was supposed to last 350 hours. And in the end, it only flew 70 hours. What can we make of that? Maybe there was poor workmanship, let’s call it that. I don’t know,” he said in an interview for Denník N.
The Russian Embassy in Slovakia said Slovakia’s delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine had led to “an unpredictable and dangerous escalation of the conflict, for which the initiators of the decisions taken will be held responsible.”