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UK considers giving battle tanks to Ukraine, Poland urges for Leopards

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Britain is considering supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time to help the country fight Russian forces, Sky News reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

Czech soldiers salute from a Leopard 2A4 tank during a ceremony for the hand over of the symbolic key of the tank to the Czech army, in Praslavice, Czech Republic, Dec. 21, 2022. (EPA Photo)

Discussions have been taking place “for a few weeks” about delivering the British army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank to Ukraine, Sky said, quoting a Western source with knowledge of the conversations.

Supplying tanks would represent a significant step-up in Western support to Ukraine, but the British government has not yet taken a final decision on the matter, the report added.

Sky cited one unnamed source saying Britain could offer around 10 Challenger 2 tanks.

The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks, and has been in service with the British army since 1994. It has been deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq, according to the British army.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense did not comment specifically on possible supplies of tanks to Ukraine, but pointed to its supply of over 200 armored vehicles and other equipment including air defense missiles and anti-tank weapons to date.

“We will continue to build on recent donations with training and further gifting of equipment,” a ministry spokesperson said.

Britain has committed to match or exceed last year’s 2.3 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in military aid for Ukraine.

Foreign Minister James Cleverly said last week Britain would continue working with Western allies to ensure Ukraine receives the military support it needs.

“Tanks might well be part of that, and where they come from… which allies provide them, is something that, of course, we’re working in coordination with each other,” Cleverly said, following a meeting with his German counterpart.

‘Leopards for Ukraine’

Meanwhile, Poland is encouraging other countries to form a broad coalition to supply modern battle tanks, such as the Leopard, to Ukraine, Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski and other officials told Polish public radio on Monday.

“The matter is in flux. The first thing is to find out what our allies in Western countries will do,” Jakub Kumoch, security adviser to President Andrzej Duda, told Radio Zet.

Poland could be part of such a coalition, but won’t make a move alone because it is not in a position to do so, he said.

Kumoch described reports that Warsaw was ready to hand over a few hundred or even all of its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine as “disinformation.” At most, he said, the debate was about “a few or a dozen pieces.” The National Security Council will discuss the issue with Duda among others late Monday, he said.

Following the German government’s decision to supply Ukraine with some 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, officials are also continuing to debate whether to supply battle tanks.

On Saturday the co-leader of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party said he remains skeptical of demands to supply Kyiv with Leopard battle tanks without coordination among NATO allies.

“No country is delivering battle tanks that are as heavy as the Leopard 1 or 2,” Lars Klingbeil said in an interview with RTL/ntv on Saturday.

The Germans are sending the Marders, an infantry fighting vehicle and a Patriot missile battery after spending months resisting the appeal from Kyiv.

The announcement was made last week in a joint statement with the United States, after Scholz spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden. But Scholz stopped short of promising the powerful Leopard tanks, even as some in his three-way coalition government are ramping up pressure.

A survey conducted by the Insa polling institute for the mass-circulation Bild newspaper found 49% of respondents in general against the decision to supply the Marders, with 40% in favor.

Asked about supplying the Leopard, 50% were against and 38% in favor.