Germany to deliver 88 Leopard I tanks to Kiev
Germany is sending dozens of Leopard I tanks in the wake of policy changes regarding the supply of tanks to Ukraine.
The German Bundestag voted to supply Kiev with 88 Leopard 1 tanks, a government spokesperson said Friday.
"I can confirm that an export license has been issued", government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said at a press briefing.
Local sources reported earlier on Friday that Berlin had voted to approve private arms maker Rheinmetall’s plan to sell 88 of Leopard 1s to Ukraine after maintenance work is completed.
The cost is reported to amount to over €100 million.
This comes against the backdrop of major policy changes undergone in Germany's approach regarding supplying Ukraine with tanks following months of pressure from Western allies.
On January 25, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz issued the announcement that Berlin would supply Kiev with 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks as part of a European coalition.
This, however, may generate some serious logistics issues, as Leopard 1s are no longer being manufactured.
Some notable differences between the older and newer versions include the size and caliber of the tank shells.
As it is using its Leopard 1s, Germany struck a deal with Oslo to supply the latter with 54 Leopard 2 tanks.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store on Friday announced his country's decision to acquire 54 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, with the option of buying 18 more, the NRK broadcaster reported earlier in the day.
Store has confirmed that Norway would purchase 54 units of Leopard 2 tanks from Germany worth 19.7 billion Norwegian Krone ($1.96 billion) to bolster the country’s defense, the report said.
Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said last week that Oslo would send Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev, but did not specify the quantity.
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The Bundestag is likewise considering purchasing back 15 Gepard tanks it sold to Qatar.
Yet doing so is questionable because ammunition for these tanks is made in Switzerland, which has refused to approve re-exports to Kiev on grounds that it would compromise its neutral status.
Some Swiss lawmakers are nonetheless lobbying to change this.
In line with a coalition of European countries, Germany had previously announced a week ago it would approve the supply of around 80 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, as well as 14 of its own tanks.
In turn, the Russian Embassy in Germany cautioned that “this extremely dangerous decision shifts the Ukrainian conflict to a new level of standoff,” adding that "Berlin’s choice to supply tanks to Kiev means the final rejection of Germany’s historical responsibility to the Russian people."
The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, warned that the delivery will become another "blatant provocation" against Russia and warned that the Russian military would destroy the equipment.
Since the tanks are manufactured in Germany, other allies or private firms willing to send them to Ukraine are required to obtain Germany's approval.
Over the past months, Kiev has been pressuring the West to supply it with hundreds of tanks, saying it needs to be prepared in the advent of a potential Russian counter-offensive due this Spring.
The Spanish government announced Wednesday that it had plans to send up to six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, while discussing plans with the country's military industry, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.
On January 26, the United States reported it would send Ukraine 31 Abrams tanks and eight M88 recovery vehicles, noting that the delivery would take considerable time.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also announced on January 15 that the UK would supply Kiev with some of its own Challenger 2 tanks.
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