Germany greenlights sending lethal Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine

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BERLIN – Germany announced plans on Wednesday to deliver main battle tanks to Ukraine, with the United States poised to do so too, a breakthrough Kyiv hailed as a decisive military boost but condemned by Moscow as a reckless provocation.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement Germany would send an initial company of 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own military inventory, and allow its allies to send more tanks from their own stocks till Ukraine could have two full battalions of these lethal war machines.

Two sources in the US said Washington would also provide dozens of its Abrams M1 tanks.

Ukraine has been calling for months for its allies in the West to send their main battle tanks that it calculates will give its forces the firepower, protection and mobility to break through Russian defensive lines and swoop through territory now occupied by Russian troops. 

“A few hundred tanks for our tank crews... This is what is going to become a real punching fist of democracy,” Mr Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration, wrote on Telegram.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any American tank sent to Ukraine would “burn like all the rest”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Germany’s and Nato’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine was the “right decision”. 

“Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower,” Mr Sunak said on Twitter.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also took to Twitter to say: “Thank you @Bundeskanzler (German Chancellor) Olaf Scholz. The decision to send Leopards to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia. Together we are stronger”

On the front as early as March

Pressure had been building for weeks on Mr Scholz’s government to send the tanks and allow other Nato allies to do the same ahead of expected spring offensives by both sides that could help turn the tide of the war.

“This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally,” he said in his statement.

Twenty armies worldwide field Leopards, which Germany has made in their thousands.

Poland ...

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