Poland delivers first batch of Leopards to Kiev, vows more in few days
Poland hinders the adoption of new EU anti-Russia sanctions and calls the proposed package "too soft" and "too weak".
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced on Friday that Warsaw has already delivered the first batch of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, making Poland the first country to do so since Berlin greenlighted the transfer earlier in January.
"Today, Polish Leopards have already arrived in Ukraine," Blaszczak said, noting that four tanks were handed over to Kiev so far.
"A battalion of these tanks has been created. A battalion in the Ukrainian structure is 31 tanks," he added.
On his part, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed on Friday that another batch of the main battle tank will be delivered in the few upcoming days in addition to a significant number of other tank models.
Read more: Ukraine to receive less than quarter of tanks pledged by West by April
"We were able to transfer our tanks very soon... also in a few days we are delivering very good PT-91 tanks -- 60 tanks will come to Ukraine," Morawiecki said.
The Polish PM indicated that Poland is ready to train Ukrainian pilots to fly US-made F-16 combat jets.
"Are we ready to train Ukrainian pilots for the F-16? Yes. We are ready to conduct such training on F-16 fighters in Poland," he told reporters, however stressing that such a decision "should be agreed upon in a broad coalition."
Read more: Biden insists on not sending F-16 jets to Ukraine
Commenting on the latest sanctions adopted by the European Union against Russia, Morawiecki considered that the package was "too soft, too weak."
"As for the 10th sanctions package, we are not happy with it because it is too soft, too weak. We propose that additional people be included," the Polish PM said in Kiev.
On Thursday, the EU member states failed to agree on a fresh batch of sanctions targeting Moscow, missing a planned deadline to have them in place for the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
To impose sanctions, all 27 EU member states must agree unanimously. According to the sources, Poland is opposing the package because of proposed exemptions to a ban on EU imports of Russian synthetic rubber.
"We've been suggesting for a long time that additional Russian products be included," Morawiecki added.
According to AFP, diplomatic officials in Brussels complained that Warsaw's demands for tougher sanctions are delaying the adoption of a "very substantial" package.
Read more: Ukraine may lose to Russia without arms from West: Poland's Duda
The latest batch of sanctions, if passed, would implement a freeze on assets of three Russian Banks within the EU, export controls on goods worth $11.6 billion a year, in addition to Iranian drone manufacturers that the EU claims are supplying Moscow.
Poland demanded an import ban on Russian synthetic rubber - used in producing tires - the AFP report indicated, citing diplomats. However, Rome wants a delay in the implementation of the decision to have time to find alternative suppliers. The disagreement stood in the way of adopting the new round of sanctions.
Warsaw's delay had "penalised Europe", a diplomatic source told AFP, since the US and the UK both were quicker to announce their sanctions.