Ukrainian servicemen take a crash course in the use of tanks in Germany

Twelve hours of training per day, six days per week: the Ukrainian soldiers learning to drive tanks in Germany they do not have “time to lose” to return to combat as soon as possible.

“Our comrades are waiting for us,” says one of them, Vitali, wearing red glasses and his face hidden by a scarf to maintain his anonymity.

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a Marder armored fighting vehicle (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer) (FABIAN BIMMER/)

He is part of the hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen gathered in munstera small town in northern Germany, some 2,000 km from the fighting around Bakhmutwhere the Russian troops concentrate their attacks.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (REUTERS/Sabine Siebold)
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (REUTERS/Sabine Siebold) (SABINE SIEBOLD/)

The violence of war seems far away at this military base where tanks Leopard 2 they sleep in hangars behind big white doors. Some are hosed down by soldiers in uniform.

But Ukraine It is on everyone’s mind and these soldiers are “very motivated,” says one of the German trainers, Lieutenant Colonel markus D, to journalists accompanying the Defense Minister, Boris Pistoriusat the base.

In this german army training centercommanders, future drivers and gunners learn the basics of driving heavy combat tanks Leopard 2 A6of which Germany will deliver 14 to Ukraine by the end of March, along with 40 armored personnel carriers.

A Marder armored fighting vehicle at the Bundeswehr base (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
A Marder armored fighting vehicle at the Bundeswehr base (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer) (FABIAN BIMMER/)

”No option”

The Ukrainian military present in munster they have little experience in piloting and handling armored cars. “I would say only 20% of them have what one might call baggage,” explained one of the trainers, German Lt. Peter.

The most experienced drove Soviet tanks, very different from the Leopard, with advanced technology.

“We are used to the old Soviet tanks. These are modern and newsays Anatoli, a Ukrainian soldier who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“A fight with a Leopard is totally different,” adds Peter.

The program lasts five weeks, half that of normal time.

The pace is intense: six days out of seven, 12-hour days and constant concentration because the lesson has to be translated.

The training combines practices with simulators and on the devices available at the base.

“It’s hard, but we don’t have a choice,” he says. Anatolyabout 50 years old.

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a Marder armored fighting vehicle (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a Marder armored fighting vehicle (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer) (FABIAN BIMMER/)

Will those five weeks be enough for the Ukrainian soldiers to defend themselves, when many experts fear an upcoming Russian offensive?

“We’ll see”says Peter.

Better than a Jiguli

The arrival of Western tanks on the front will “certainly have a very good effect,” Anatoli wants to believe.

He says he is convinced of the superiority of the Leopard 2, a recognized device of which several countries delivered units to Ukraine.

“It’s like the difference between a Mercedes and a Jiguli,” he jokes, referring to the Soviet versions of the Lada.

For German soldiers, training Ukrainians, forced to wage war in the heart of Europe, is not trivial.

The history of the Munster military base dates back to the XIX century already the Prussian era.

Garrison city until the end of the Second World Warthe British occupation forces set up a camp for German prisoners there after the defeat of the Nazis.

Finally, it was there that in the 1950s the Bundeswehr he opened his school for tank troops.

“I would be lying if I said that we are not excited. A soldier without emotion is not a soldier,” explains Lieutenant Peter.

A view of a Leopard 2 tank (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
A view of a Leopard 2 tank (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer) (FABIAN BIMMER/)

But pride dominates.

“We know that what we teach our Ukrainian colleagues will be put into practice at the front,” says another coach. “And we will be able to say that we participate,” he adds.

(With information from AFP)

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