By George Wright – BBC News
Berlin – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and allow other countries to do the same, reports in Germany say.
Leopard 2s are made in Germany and Berlin needs to approve their export.
Germany has been hesitant to send its own – or allow other nations to send theirs – over concerns it could escalate the conflict with Russia.
Now, after international pressure, Scholz has decided to send at least 14 Leopard 2s, German outlets say.
A company usually has 14 tanks – the same number of Leopards Poland wants to send, and the same number of Challenger 2 tanks the UK has already committed to Ukraine.
The news was broken by Der Spiegel in Germany, citing government sources, before being seemingly confirmed elsewhere.
There has been no official statement from the German government yet.
However, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the liberal FDP party, who chairs the defence committee of the German parliament, welcomed the reports.
“The decision was tough, it took far too long, but in the end it was unavoidable,” she said, adding that it would come as a relief to “the battered and brave Ukrainian people”.
Ukraine sees the tanks as vital for breaking through Russian lines and to beat an anticipated Russian offensive this spring.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky believes about 300 Leopard tanks would help it defeat Russia.
Allied nations have become frustrated at what they perceive as German reluctance to send the armoured vehicles in recent days.
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki told the BBC earlier on Tuesday that Germany had a “special responsibility” to support Ukraine, having built up “huge Russian funds” before the war by buying its gas.
He also accused Germany of “delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is difficult to understand”.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius earlier said that Berlin had given other nations the green light to train Ukrainians to use Leopard 2 tanks, but did not commit to sending their own.
Miguel Berger, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, told the BBC on Tuesday that decisions would “not be driven by the news cycle”.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the United States could send a significant number of Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine, with an announcement possible this week.
Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, on Tuesday called on Western countries to give Kyiv hundreds of tanks to form a “crushing fist” against Russia.
“Tanks are one of the components for Ukraine to return to its 1991 borders,” he wrote on Telegram after the reports emerged of Germany agreeing to send tanks.
Why are Leopard tanks so in demand?
By Chris Partridge, BBC weapons analyst
The Leopard 2 tank is a world-class weapon used by more than a dozen countries.
Ukraine sees tanks as another vital part of its defence against Russian forces and Leopards have seen combat action in Afghanistan and Syria.
What makes them particularly attractive to Kyiv is that nearly two-thirds of all Leopards produced are still in Europe. So physically getting Leopards to the fight is relatively straightforward. That also makes maintenance and repair – vital aspects of any weapons system – easier too.
It is worth remembering in all this that Germany is giving Ukraine vital air defence systems, such as IRIS-T and Patriot surface-to-air missiles, as well as armoured personnel carriers.
Top: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – pictured last year – was under international pressure to send Leopard 2s. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
Front Page: A Leopard 2 tank. Photo: Getty Images and published by BBC
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