Switzerland blocks sale of Leopard tanks destined for Kiev
The Swiss government has rejected a request to export 96 Leopard 1A5 tanks intended for delivery to Ukraine, it announced in a statement on Wednesday. The proposal was inconsistent with the European nation’s law and its neutrality principles, it explained.
The request came on Tuesday from the defense firm RUAG AG, to sell a specific group of tanks, currently in storage in Italy, and needed authorization from the Swiss Federal Council, the statement said. The plan was to have the older armor refurbished in Germany and then deliver the tanks to Ukraine.
“The Federal Council has concluded that the sale of the 96 tanks is not possible under the law as it stands,” the Swiss government said.
RUAG is a Swiss-based and owned international defense company. It owns the Italy-based tanks, which are inoperable at the moment, according to Bloomberg.
In May, Switzerland agreed to sell to Germany 25 Leopard 2 tanks that its military had mothballed, on the condition that they would not be sent to Ukraine. Despite this limitation, the deal with Rheinmetall AG, the original producer of the vehicles, was perceived by some observers as supporting the Ukrainian war effort.
Germany was among donors of Western-made main battle tanks to Kiev as it was preparing for its counteroffensive against Russia. Getting such armor back from Switzerland potentially gives Berlin more leeway in sharing its own arsenal.
Bern has consistently vetoed requests from other nations, including Spain, Germany, and Denmark, to re-export Swiss-made military vehicles and ammunition to Ukraine.
Moscow has blamed NATO’s creeping expansion into Ukraine for provoking the ongoing crisis in the first place and has warned that by supplying increasingly advanced weapons to the country Western nations would prolong hostilities but would not change the outcome. Kiev’s forces suffered heavy losses over the first three weeks of its counteroffensive.