Germany, Denmark and Netherlands to send at least 100 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

Germany, Denmark and Netherlands to send at least 100 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have announced plans to pool funds to restore at least 100 old Leopard 1 tanks from industry stocks and supply them to Ukraine.

On a surprise visit to Kyiv, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said between 20 and 25 of the tanks would arrive by summer, about 80 by the end of the year and another 100 in 2024, departing Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov’s office said after their meeting.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s Vice Chancellor, said on a visit to Washington that while Ukraine should have a double-digit number of German-made Leopard 1 tanks at its disposal in the first quarter, it was unclear how many of the 178 tanks his country had authorised would ultimately be sent.

“The numbers are there but they have to be refurbished for battle, re-equipped, so we don’t know exactly how many,” he said after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“But it’s a large number to repel Russia’s spring offensive.”

Asked whether the decision to send them, after months of mounting pressure on Berlin, should have been made earlier, Mr Habeck said: “I hope the decision was taken at just the right time.”

The joint statement about the plans by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said Ukraine would receive at least 100 of the Leopard 1 A5 tanks in coming months, as well as training, logistical support, spare parts and an ammunition package.

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Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said the Leopard 1 was “definitely still suitable” for combat use despite being an older model.

“It’s really a tested tank,” Ms Ollongren told Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

“They’re being fixed up and made battle-ready, so they will definitely be useful for the Ukrainians, and also better than a number of Russian tanks.”

Details of the deal still need to be worked out with the companies that own the tanks, according to the statement.

It was also not immediately clear whether there would be cost-sharing with the companies.

There are about 180 Leopard 1 tanks in Germany owned by arms maker Rheinmetall and a company in northern Germany.

Standing beside Mr Reznikov in Kyiv, Mr Pistorius said he had earlier seen off Ukrainian forces leaving for training in Germany on the more modern Leopard 2 tanks his country has also promised Ukraine.

Mr Reznikov tweeted a picture of himself and Mr Pistorius posing with a scale model Leopard in a display case, writing: “The ‘first’ Leopard 2 has arrived in Kyiv.”

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The German Defence Ministry later tweeted that the actual Leopard 2s would be available at the end of March.

Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said their Leopard 1 initiative was open to more partners, adding that Belgium had shown “initial interest to participate”.

Earlier, the head of Rheinmetall said it would send Ukraine between 20 and 25 Leopards this year, with the rest of the 88 Leopard 1 tanks it owns in total to be sent next year.

The move follows the German government’s decision last month, amid mounting international pressure, to deliver more modern Leopard 2 battle tanks from army stocks.

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