North Macedonia’s government has agreed a donation of armed helicopters to Ukraine, likely consisting of its entire fleet of Soviet-made Mi-24 attack helicopters.
North Macedonia’s government “has decided to donate helicopters to Ukraine” and has accepted a draft text intended for this purpose, the government in Skopje said in a press release.
The government did not specify how many gunships will be donated, but earlier this week, Defence Minister Slavjanka Petrovska said it might hand over its entire fleet of 12 helicopters.
Petrovska at the weekend recalled that these heavily armed helicopters, bought in 2001 from Ukraine itself, are no longer part of the country’s defence plans and that their so-called “resource” will expire soon, so they will no longer be airworthy.
It is believed that Ukraine will be able to more easily use the gunships, as it already has a fleet of identical frames.
Unofficially, only four of North Macedonia’s Mi-24s have been modernised and are still airworthy. The rest could be potentially restored by Ukraine or used for spare parts.
The Kremlin called the decision a mistake. “We would consider such decision [to donate the helicopters] a big mistake by the Macedonian government,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday.
North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Bujar Osmani replied the same day that his country is not giving weapons to Ukraine to attack other countries but to defend itself and the rules-based world order.
“The Russian Federation has violently and unjustifiably broken the basic principles of international and humanitarian law. Those are the principles of the European security architecture that have sustained the peace in Europe for the last 75 years and the same principles that sustain the peace in our country,” Osmani said.
As for North Macedonia, which joined NATO in 2020, Petrovska said the country seeks to purchase eight Western-made multipurpose helicopters that would primarily be used for transport, and unlike the MI-24s, can also be used for civilian protection and rescue.
“Five offers have been received and a team in the ministry is doing an evaluation,” Petrovska told 360 degrees news portal on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the country relies on a fleet of 11 Mi-8 military transport helicopters which are used both by the army and the police.
Earlier this year, the Defence Ministry revealed that the country has sent seven tranches of military donations to Ukraine so far, without including the helicopters, worth roughly 30 million euros in total.
Most notably, last year it donated around 30 Soviet-era T-72 main battle tanks and later it also donated its four Su-25 ground attack jets.
In the meantime, North Macedonia was supported by the United States with $139 million intended for purchasing new, more sophisticated equipment, the minister said, not specifying whether some or all of these funds would go towards buying new helicopters.
Source : Balkan Insight