Ukraine could add old main battle tanks Leopard 1 to deliveries of modern tanks that Germany and other governments promised last week to counter Russian forces in the war.
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreitconfirmed on Friday that “export authorization has been granted”, but refused to give numbers or other details, and said they could materialize “in the coming days and weeks.” He told reporters in Berlin that the industry’s request to allow the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks had been made “some time ago.”
Hebestreit’s comments came after the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported that the government had authorized the export of the tanks and they could be shipped as soon as the defense industry puts them into service.
He said that two companies, Rheinmetall and FFG, they want to prepare dozens of Leopard 1 tanks that could be delivered to Ukraine if it is interested. But she also said so far there are problems securing sufficient ammunition for vehicles. It was not immediately clear when deliveries might be possible, but it seemed unlikely that it would be a quick process.
The Leopard 1, manufactured between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, was the first main battle tank built for the West German Bundeswehr. The German army has not had any of the tanks since 2003, Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said.
Germany agreed last week to send 14 modern Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its current army stocks. Several other European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s move, which followed weeks of mounting pressure to supply battle tanks, meant they may also hand over some of their stocks to Ukraine.
USA has said it will send 31 tanks M1 Abrams.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Oleksii Makeiev praised the Berlin announcement.
“Following last week’s historic decision on the Leopard 2, it is an important sign that the tank coalition formed by the Western partners is growing and becoming stronger,” he told the German news agency dpa. “There is no time to waste,” he added.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, reported days ago that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will receive between 120 and 140 main battle tanks as part of the first round of tank supplies confirmed by the Western powers.
As detailed by the representative of Ukrainian diplomacy, kyiv is counting on receiving Western models such as the German Leopards, British Challengers, American Abrams and even French Leclercs.
(With information from AP and EFE)
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