UK’s Daily Telegraph: “Officials in Kyiv have suggested there are already 12 countries willing to donate as many as 100 Leopards from their stocks if granted permission by Berlin.”
After dodging European diplomatic pressure for months, Berlin has decided not to block the delivery of German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Germany, which has so far declined to supply battle tanks directly to Kyiv, will finally allow Poland — and perhaps other European countries — to send Leopard tanks from their inventory.
“German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not stand in the way if Poland decides to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine,” Germany’s state-run DW TV reported Tuesday.
Following the German foreign minister’s statement, Poland formally requested to re-export Leopard to Ukraine. “Polish defense minister has officially requested Berlin for permission to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine. The [German] government wants to decide quickly on an export license,” German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Tuesday.
Previously, the Polish government declared that it would send German-made tanks to Ukraine “regardless” of Berlin’s position.
German Defense Minister Pistorius says Germany has not decided whether to send its own Leopard tanks to Ukraine but that "partner countries that already have Leopard tanks that can be deployed, the training of tank teams from Ukraine, can already start." pic.twitter.com/R1JuuIJy1W
— Teri Schultz (@terischultz) January 24, 2023
Though German-made Leopard tanks sold to Poland and other NATO nations are the property of their respective armed forces, these countries are contractually bound not to re-export them to a third party. “All German-built weapons of war come with an end use certificate that means their new owner needs Berlin’s approval if it wants to pass on that weapon to another country,” the French TV channel Euronews reported Tuesday.
If the Polish request is approved, German-made tanks will face Russian tanks for the first time on the battlefield since the end of World War II.
DW TV reported the change in Germany’s stance:
Germany would not stand in the way if Poland sent its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday in an interview with French television LCI.
If Poland were to go ahead and sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Baerbock said, “If we were asked we would not stand in the way.”
“We know how important these tanks are and this is why we are discussing this now with our partners,” the German foreign minister added. “We need to make sure people’s lives are saved and Ukraine’s territory liberated.” (…)
Germany has been under considerable pressure both to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and to allow other countries to send their German-made tanks to Ukrainian forces. But Berlin has been hesitant to send the highly advanced, Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine out of concern it could lead to a widening of the Russian war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, German news reports suggest that steps are underway in Berlin to send Leopard from German military stock over to Ukraine. “Newly appointed German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Tuesday that he is expecting a decision imminently on the delivery of Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine,” German news agency DPA reported Tuesday. “He encouraged partner countries that have operational Leopard tanks to already start training Ukrainian forces on using these tanks.”
While many in the media are celebrating the entry of the German-made battle tank as a possible “game changer,” it needs to be seen if the handful of them will make a difference along the 600-mile frontline. “Officials in Kyiv have suggested there are already 12 countries willing to donate as many as 100 Leopards from their stocks if granted permission by Berlin,” the UK daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.
Ukraine Gears Up For Major Russian Offensive
The move to replenish Ukrainian defenders with a fresh supply of battle tanks and armored vehicles comes amid fear of a major Russian offensive in the coming weeks.
Russia is redeploying forces for a big offensive, official Ukrainian sources claim. “Russian forces are gearing up to launch a “big offensive” in early spring, according to Ukrainian intelligence assessments,” Sky News (UK) reported Tuesday. “The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) believes troops are regrouping in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, reports the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).”
Meanwhile, Russia maintains pressure in the east of Ukraine, capturing the area around the strategic town of Bakhmut and increasing troop strength along the frontline.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the amassing of Russian forces in the country’s east and south. The France24 TV channel reported Monday:
Russian “shelling and attacks are occurring round the clock”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday in his nightly video message.
“But the battle for Donbas goes on. And the battle for the south goes on. We see how Russia is massing its forces and we know how to respond.”
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