Germany announces sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday it would supply Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and allow its allies to do the same to enable the Ukrainian army to deal with the military offensive of the Russia, which immediately condemned this decision.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave in to the pressure that had built up in recent weeks, when several countries, such as Poland, which officially requested it, said they were ready to deliver Leopard 2s to Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki immediately thanked the German leader for his decision, saying on Twitter that it represents “a big step forward in stopping Russia”.

French President Emmanuel Macron also welcomed an initiative that “extends and amplifies the support we had committed with the delivery of the AMX10 RC (light tanks)” to Kyiv.

“This decision is part of our well-known support for Ukraine to the best of our ability,” Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “We act in a closely coordinated manner at international level.”

In addition to Poland, Finland, Norway, Spain and Portugal have expressed their willingness to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has also said he is ready to buy the Leopards that his country is currently renting from Germany to send to Ukraine.

The objective of Berlin and its partners is to quickly constitute two battalions of combat tanks in Ukraine, specified the spokesman of the German government, Steffen Hebestreit, in the press release.

Berlin will initially supply 14 Leopard 2s drawn from its stocks, as well as the logistics and the ammunition necessary for Ukraine, he adds.

However, these tanks should not be operational in Ukraine for “three to four months”, warned the German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, even if the training of Ukrainian tankers will begin soon.

Germany remains committed to not becoming a co-belligerent in Ukraine, insisted the minister, while the Russian embassy in Berlin denounced a “very dangerous” decision and accused the German government of having “renounced its historical responsibility” .

One of the keys to the German decision is in the United States, which is preparing to announce the sending of Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, two American officials said on Tuesday, a decision described in advance as a “provocation”. by the Russian Ambassador in Washington.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin, with Reuters offices in Europe; French version Jean-Stéphane Brosse and Tangi Salaün, editing by Kate Entringer and Blandine Hénault)

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