The authorities of North Macedonia are secretly transferring four Su-25 fighters, which were bought from Ukraine in 2001, back to Kiev, Macedonian news portal MKD reported on Thursday, citing government sources.
According to the report, the deal concerns four Su-25s procured by North Macedonia from the Ukrainian authorities during the conflict between the Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) militant group and Macedonian security forces in 2001. The fighters have been grounded and prepared for a sale since 2004.
The portal cited The Left political party of North Macedonia as saying that Ukrainian military engineers were inspecting and fixing the said jets at a military airfield in June, allegedly preparing them for delivery to Ukraine. The uniforms of the engineers repairing the planes had the insignia of the Azov regiment.
North Macedonia’s Defense Ministry neither confirmed nor denied this information after the portal requested a comment.
“The details of these decisions, their content, and merits will eventually be taken out of ‘confidential’ marking and made public. Made decisions have not obstructed the combat readiness of our army so far,” the portal quoted the ministry’s response to the inquiry.
The Macedonian authorities handed over T-72 tanks to Ukraine in late July, according to the defense ministry. The republic’s sole tank battalion was disbanded after the transfer.
The United States will provide North Macedonia with Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) instead. According to local media, Skopje had some 31 T-72 tanks before the deal, which it had received from Russia during the 2001 conflict.
Following North Macedonia’s determination to dispatch T-72 tanks to Ukraine, Russia has criticized the country and called the move a “gross mistake” that would only promote Ukraine’s ‘criminal activity.’
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “We consider this a major mistake on the part of North Macedonia.” “Being driven by the spirit of its allegiance to NATO, Skopje has been playing a role in pumping Ukraine with weapons, thus fostering the Kyiv regime’s criminal activity against Donbas civilians.”
#Ukraine: North Macedonia ?? decided to donate its tanks to Ukraine – this was confirmed by the country's Ministry of Defense.
Macedonia possesses ~30 T-72A tanks, with at least 8 of them known to be currently being transported to Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/VhEHoff6gw
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 29, 2022
The top brass of Macedonia claimed to have provided Ukraine with “third-generation” tanks that were to be dismantled. According to the defense ministry, North Macedonia’s ambition to acquire the latest weapons prompted the decision to transfer obsolete tanks to Ukraine.
The delivery of T-72 tanks to Kiev was the most recent in a string of donations made by its allies to fend off an invasion by Russia. In July, Lithuania displayed a crowdfunded military drone later delivered to Kyiv to improve its fighting capacity.