Germany would not block Poland from sending tanks to Ukraine, minister says

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Germany’s foreign minister said on Sunday his government would not stand in the way if Poland wanted to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a possible development for Kyiv that Russia wants a tank to fight against the invasion of .

Ukrainian officials have been calling on Western allies for months to supply them with modern German-made tanks – but Berlin has so far refused to send them or allow other NATO countries to do so.

Asked what would happen if Poland went ahead and sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Annalina Birbok said on France’s LCI TV: “The question has not been asked at the moment, but if we were asked If it goes, we will not stand in the way.”

His comments followed comments by German Chancellor Olaf Schulz at a summit in Paris on Sunday, which said all decisions on arms deliveries would be made jointly with allies, including the United States.

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Germany is under intense pressure to allow the leopard to go to Ukraine. But Scholz’s Social Democrat party has traditionally been skeptical of military intervention and wary of sudden moves that could further antagonize Moscow.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday that he expected a decision on the tanks soon, but sounded a note of caution.

Pistorius told ARDTV that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including the domestic consequences for the security of the German population.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his long-standing request for tanks in a meeting Sunday with visiting former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kyiv.

A Leclerc XLR battle tank manufactured by Nexter is displayed at the Eurosatory international defense and security trade fair in Villepinte, near Paris, France on June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

“We need more weapons: tanks, planes, long-range missiles,” Zielinski said in a statement on his website.

Ukraine says the heavily armored Western battle tanks will give Ukrainian ground forces greater mobility and protection ahead of a new Russian offensive that Kyiv expects in the near future. It would also help Ukraine to regain some of the territories it had captured from Russia.

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After the Paris summit, Schulz said at a news conference that all arms deliveries to Ukraine so far have been in close coordination with Western partners. He said that we will do the same in future.

Speaking at the same news conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he did not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.

Macron said sending tanks should not worsen the situation, allow time for Ukrainians to train to be effective, and should not jeopardize France’s own security.

“Regarding the Leclercs, I asked the army minister to work on it, but nothing has been ruled out,” Macron said, adding that the initiative would be discussed by allies such as Germany in the coming days and weeks. Will have to match.

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German sources have told Reuters that if the US agrees to send its tanks, it will allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help defend itself against Russia. But US officials have said President Joe Biden’s administration is not ready to send its tanks, including the M1 Abrams.

A Kremlin spokesman said on Friday that Western countries supplying Ukraine with additional tanks would not change the course of the conflict and would add to the hardships of the Ukrainian people.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Leigh Thomas; Additional reporting by Tom Sims, Lydia Kelly and Humira Pamuk; Edited by David Holmes, Andrew Havens and Diane Croft

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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