Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands announced on Tuesday that they intend to supply Ukraine with at least 100 refurbished Leopard 1 tanks in the coming months, a pledge that comes as Kiev anticipates a new Russian offensive around the anniversary of its invasion.
The announcement followed Germany’s agreement last month to allow deliveries of the most modern German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
In a joint statement, the defense ministers of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said the shipment of the aging Leopard 1 tanks was part of an effort “to support Ukraine in its attempt to resist Russian aggression”.
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“(This) will significantly enhance Ukraine’s military potential for restoring their violated territorial integrity,” they said, adding that the delivery will take place “in the coming months” and include logistical support and training.
Ukrainian officials said they expect Russian forces to make a fresh advance in eastern and southern areas as the Kremlin scrambles to secure territory it illegally annexed in late September.
The expected Russian push could seek to recapture territory Moscow lost in a late-summer counter-offensive.
Some Western military analysts were skeptical, however, of Russia’s ability to mount a new major offensive in the coming weeks, particularly in time for the February 24 anniversary. Ukraine and Russia are still training their new troops and stockpiling weapons.
The dpa news agency reported that German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a surprise visit to Kiev on Tuesday that the first 20-25 Leopard 1 tanks would reach Ukraine this summer.
Pistorius’ office said German authorities had cleared the export of up to 178 Leopard 1 A5 tanks to Ukraine, but noted the actual number sent would depend on the required upgrades.
Germany last month agreed to send 14 new Leopard 2 A6 tanks from current military stocks. The country’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that the first Leopard 2s could arrive in Ukraine by the end of March. The first tank-trained Ukrainian soldiers left for Germany this week.
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