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17 Jan, 2023 01:12

Ukraine tank donor to ‘follow German lead’

Finland is waiting for approval before sending any Leopard 2s to Kiev
Ukraine tank donor to ‘follow German lead’

While Helsinki is willing to give some of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, their delivery will ultimately depend on the German military industry and the government in Berlin, Finland’s defense minister Mikko Savola said on Monday.

“It depends very much on Germany’s lead, how we act with these Leopard tanks,” Savola told Reuters. “These require a German export permit and in addition to that, the German defense industry has a very strong role in this, in how substitutive equipment can be obtained.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said last week that his country could donate several of the German-made tanks to Ukraine, but only as part of a broader European coalition. This followed a statement by Polish President Andrzej Duda that Kiev will definitely get “a company” of Leopards as part of a Warsaw-led push. 

Such a transfer would legally require Berlin’s permission, however, and so far it has not been granted. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday demanded of the Germans to move quickly, arguing that Ukraine’s defeat could mean a Russian “invasion” of other EU countries and a Third World War.

Savola said that Finland will discuss the tank issue later this week, perhaps at a meeting of “like-minded countries” in Estonia, and on Friday at a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Germany.

There is no defense minister in Berlin at the moment, as Christine Lambrecht officially resigned her post on Monday and Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to name her replacement. 

Meanwhile, the tank manufacturer Rheinmetall has warned that it might take a year to make the Leopards fit for Ukrainian service. The project would also cost hundreds of millions of euros, Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger claimed in an interview over the weekend. Papperger said up to 110 tanks could eventually be refurbished, of which 88 are the older Leopard 1 models. Ukrainian officials have said they need at least 300. 

Moscow has repeatedly warned the US and its allies that sending weapons to Kiev prolongs the conflict but will not change its outcome. German tanks “will burn like the rest” of Western weapons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.