After weeks of indecision and “dithering”, Germany has given the go-ahead for the export of Leopard 2 heavy tanks to Ukraine.
The move was announced on Wednesday 25. Jan and follows intense pressure on Berlin from its European and U.S. allies.
Berlin will provide a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the Bundeswehr stocks and is also granting approval for other European countries to send tanks from their own stocks to Ukraine.
“This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced during a meeting of the German cabinet. "We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally."
The package agreed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz would also offer training of Ukrainian forces on using the tanks in Germany, as well as logistics, ammunition and maintenance for the battle tanks.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday welcomed the "right decision by NATO allies and friends" to send tanks to Ukraine, after Germany bowed to weeks of pressure. "Alongside (British) Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine's defensive firepower," he tweeted.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck on Tuesday accused Germany of "dragging their feet, dithering and behaving in a manner that is difficult to understand".
Poland and Finland had already indicated they would be willing to send the tanks to Ukraine.
It comes at a crucial stage in the conflict, with spring offensives expected from both sides and signs that the Kremlin is planning for a long and drawn-out war.
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.
Over the years, Germany has sold thousands of them across the world and many of them are currently sitting unused in countries like Poland that want to send them to Ukraine, but couldn’t because they need German permission to do so.
Up to today, Germany had refused to grant this permission, saying earlier this month it would only send heavy tanks if the U.S. did the same.
Since the start of Russia’s reinvasion, Ukraine’s western allies have been cautious in which weapons systems it sends to Kyiv for fear of escalating the conflict with Russia beyond Ukraine’s borders.
The U.K. earlier this month opened the gate for supplies of heavy tanks after announcing it would send 14 Challenger 2 vehicles.
This is a breaking story and will be updated frequently.
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