UPDATE 1-Finland should not give Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine, says defence minister
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HELSINKI, March 23 (Reuters) - Finland's defence minister on Thursday said he did not want to donate Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine, despite a Ukrainian request for such planes to help with its fight against Russia.
"My view as Finland's defence minister is that we need these Hornets to secure our own country," Antti Kaikkonen told a news conference in Helsinki.
"I view negatively the idea that they would be donated during the next few years. And if we look even further, my understanding is that they begin to be worn out and will have little use value left," he said.
Finland is replacing its ageing Hornet fleet with F-35 fighters it ordered in 2021, but the delivery of the first new planes is still two to three years away.
Finland will, however, give additional military equipment to Ukraine, including three more Leopard 2 tanks that come on top of a similar-sized donation made earlier, Kaikkonen told a news conference.
The possibility of Finland donating fighter jets to Ukraine to help it fight back Russia's invasion came up during Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin's recent trip to Kyiv where she met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Asked by a journalist if fighter jets should be donated to Ukraine, Marin said Finland should have a discussion if its Hornets could be suited for that purpose but made no promises.
Kaikkonen said that Ukraine had approached Finland to discuss the possibility of Finland donating some of its Hornets. (Reporting by Anne Kauranen, editing by Terje Solsvik)