President Zelensky has hit out at Germany over its hesitation in supplying Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks, saying he did not think the country’s approach was “the right strategy to go with.”
Berlin is reported to have set out strict conditions for sending the vehicles, saying it will only do so if the U.S. also agrees to send its own Abrams heavy battle tanks.
Speaking via videolink to an audience at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Thursday morning, Zelensky heavily criticized Germany’s approach.
“There are times where we shouldn’t hesitate or shouldn’t compare. When someone says ‘I will give tanks if someone else will also share tanks,’” he said.
According to military analysts, the Leopard 2 is probably the best choice of NATO main battle tanks that could be used to equip the Ukrainian army.
It is a high-tech, Bavaria-manufactured vehicle that has been in the field since 1979. Munich’s Kraus Maffei Wegmann (KMW) has built a reported 3,600 Leopard 2 tanks of various models, and sold the combat vehicle not just to the Bundeswehr but across Europe (including to neutral Finland, Sweden and Switzerland), as well as further afield to Chile, Qatar, Singapore and Canada.
KMW’s Leopard 2 supply and maintenance network has long experience servicing Leopard 2 tanks all over the world.
That and the fact that there are hundreds of parked vehicles which third party governments aren’t using and want to sell make the German tank the most logical option.
Ukraine’s Western allies and arms suppliers are set to meet on Friday at the U.S.-run Ramstein base in Germany to discuss further military aid to Ukraine, and a large contingent of Ukrainian officials, headed by First Lady Olena Zelenska, has been at Davos this week to lobby for more weapons.
Speaking on Thursday morning, Zelensky also reiterated his intention of reclaiming Crimea, which was invaded and illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, as he called on his Western partners to provide him with more weaponry.
“Our objective is to liberate all of our territories,” he said, speaking in Ukrainian. “Crimea is our land, our territory, our sea, and our mountains. Give us your weapons and we will bring our land back… We need all the strength there is out there because we are fighting against all of this tyranny. We cannot just fight with motivation and morale.”
He compared weapons to a “vaccine against Russian tyranny.”
Zelensky was also asked whether a helicopter crash that killed the country’s interior minister and 13 others on Wednesday near Kyiv was an “accident or something more sinister.”
“The investigation is ongoing. There are several theories and I’m not authorized to talk about any of them until the investigation is finished,” Zelensky replied.
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