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Minister questions 30-year-old fighter jets' usefulness to Ukraine

Haavisto's comments follow a Helsingin Sanomat report that Kyiv has requested the matter concerning Hornet jets be discussed between Ukraine, Finland and the US.

Suomen ilmavoimien Hornet kone laskeutuneena Rissalan lentokentällä Siilinjärvellä.
Finland bought the Hornet fighter jet fleet from US firm McDonnell Douglas in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Image: Sami Takkinen / Yle
Yle News

Ukraine could better benefit from other kinds of military assistance, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Yle, responding to speculation about handing over some of Finland's ageing F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets to the war-torn country.

"I believe that the best chance to help Ukraine now is with other weapons that can be sent right away. That's the most important thing," Haavisto said.

Finland's US-made fighters may not have much left to contribute once retired anyway, the minister noted. Finland plans to start gradually replacing its fighter jet fleet in 2025.

"We have calculated the life of the Hornets currently in use and how they will perform at the end of their service life. After that, there won't be much left to give. This is my own view," Haavisto said.

Haavisto's comments come after the publication of a Helsingin Sanomat article claiming that Kyiv has requested trilateral talks between the two countries and the US to discuss the possibility of Finland sending some of its decommissioned Hornet fighters to Ukraine.

The reported request was made in connection to comments made earlier this month by Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) while meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in Kyiv. Marin hinted at the possibility of sending more heavy equipment to Ukraine, including jets from Finland's ageing fighter fleet. This view was not shared by many other Finnish leaders, however.

PM: Ukraine has asked Finland for help

On Thursday, PM Marin said Finland and Ukraine have been discussing additional military aid for a long time now.

She made the comment as she arrived at the EU Summit in Brussels, responding to questions about Ukraine's reported request for a trilateral meeting.

The Prime Minister refused to disclose any specific details about what kind of requests had been made.

"Of course, I cannot or cannot talk about confidential discussions between different countries here. What I can say in general terms is that Ukraine has asked Finland for help, as it has asked all other EU member states and partner countries, in order to get arms into the country," Marin said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Office of the President told news agency STT that Ukraine had not contacted President Sauli Niinistö nor the president's office about the Hornet jet issue.

Edited at 13:33 to include Sanna Marin's comments.

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