Russia could target proposed German tank plant in Ukraine – Foreign Ministry
Plans for the construction of a tank factory in Ukraine by German defense giant Rheinmetall would constitute a “global provocation,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.
“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,” she said during a briefing on Thursday.
Zakharova referred to the project while discussing Kiev’s mistreatment of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Ukraine. The plant would reportedly be located close to a predominantly Hungarian settlement in Transcarpatia, she said.
Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger told CNN earlier this month that Ukrainian workers would be trained to repair various armored vehicles produced by the firm, such as Marder infantry fighting vehicles, Leopard 2 tanks, and Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery systems.
He downplayed the threat of Russian strikes, saying the plant would be “just another” Ukrainian defense manufacturing facility. The plan could be launched “within 12 weeks,” CNN reported.
The company first announced plans to invest some $200 million in a factory in Ukraine in March, but did not say where exactly it would be built. Some Russian media outlets claimed that a location near the village of Chernotisov, known as Feketeardo in Hungary, may be selected.
Zakharova warned that, if the German arms maker built the plant, it would constitute “the latest proof of the militarization of Ukraine by the West.”
“If those plans are real, then it is certainly a provocation, which the Kiev regime and its Western backers love so much,” she added.
The Ukraine conflict and the decision of Western nations to ramp up military production to arm Kiev have been a boon for defense contractors, including Rheinmetall. The German company’s earnings hit a record €6.4 billion ($7 billion) last year, an increase of 27% from 2021.
Moscow has accused the US of using Ukraine as a tool in a proxy war against Russia. Western arms provided to Kiev simply prolong the hostilities and confirm the Russian government’s assessment that the country needs to be demilitarized, officials have argued.