German arms giant to repair tanks in Ukraine
A repair facility for Leopard 2 tanks and other German-made military hardware supplied to Kiev by the West for use in its conflict with Moscow will commence operations in Ukraine after this summer, Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger has annonuced.
“We want to start operations after the summer break,” Papperger told Der Spiegel magazine on Friday. Rheinmetall is “already training Ukrainians in Germany for this job,” he added.
The businessman didn’t say exactly where in the country the facility will be located.
German-made Leopard 2s can only be repaired outside Ukraine, and the proposed center is intended to reduce the distance that damaged tanks have to be transported.
However, Der Spiegel also raised security concerns associated with the project.
Rheinmetall first announced plans to invest some $200 million in a production and repair facility on Ukrainian territory in March. Since then, several Russian officials have warned Berlin against going forward with the plan.
In March, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who now serves as deputy head of the country’s Security Council, wrote on social media: “If [the] Krauts still go on with it for real, they’re very welcome.”
“The decision should be greeted with fireworks by Kalibrs and other Russian pyrotechnic devices,” he added.
Some Russian outlets claimed the facility could be set up near the village of Chernotisov, not far from Ukraine’s border with Hungary.
Earlier this month, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that “such a plant, if it is built, will be a legitimate target for the Russian forces on par with any other object of the Ukrainian defense industry.”
Germany and other EU countries have supplied Kiev with dozens of Leopard 2 main battle tanks in the run up to Ukraine’s much-hyped counteroffensive, which started in early June. A number of those tanks have already been destroyed. On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine had lost 15 Leopard 2s along with other Western hardware in a single day in a failed attempt to advance.
Die Welt reported in late June that Rheinmetall had been flourishing amid the conflict in Ukraine. The Dusseldorf-based arms manufacturer received 18% more orders in 2022 than in the previous year, it said. According to the outlet, the company is now planning to significantly increase production, while expecting double-digit sales growth in the coming years.