Rheinmetall told the media it could give 139 Leopards to Ukraine, with the first batch expected to be ready by April or May. German arms firm reveals number of tanks it could send to Kiev
German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall has revealed it could provide well over a hundred Leopard tanks of various modifications for Ukraine over the coming year.
Despite growing pressure, Berlin has so far not agreed to give the hardware to Kiev. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has, however, made it clear the German government will not stand in the way of other countries willing to donate some of their own Leopard tanks.
Speaking to RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) news website, Rheinmetall’s spokesperson said: “Of the Leopard 2A4 we have 22 vehicles, which we could make operational and deliver to Ukraine.” This process, however, is expected to take about a year, according to the report published on Tuesday.
The German arms manufacturer has an additional 29 Leopard 2A4 tanks which are being overhauled as part of Berlin’s weapons transfer program with other European nations, the spokesperson revealed. The vehicles will be operational by April or May.
Rheinmetall’s representative added that the company could also provide 88 older Leopard 1 models, but stopped short of giving time frames, citing overall uncertainty over the issue.
Under German law, foreign operators of German-made weapons have to apply for authorization from Berlin if they wish to hand them over to third countries.
Speaking to France’s LCI broadcaster on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that should countries such as Poland officially ask for such permission, Berlin “would not stand in the way.”
The top diplomat’s comment indicated an apparent change of heart from Germany, which as recently as on Friday had reiterated its unwillingness to allow the transfer of Leopards to Ukraine.
The position voiced by German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius during a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the Ramstein US Air Base was met with widespread frustration, especially from Poland. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said a “smaller coalition” could be created to facilitate deliveries of the German-made tanks, despite Berlin’s opposition.
Moscow has accused Western nations of waging a proxy war against it via Ukraine. Russian officials have also repeatedly argued that by providing Kiev with increasingly advanced weapons, its backers are merely prolonging the conflict and risking a direct confrontation with Moscow.
Commenting on the possibility of Western tanks being delivered to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said last Friday that the weaponry would not make much of a difference on the battlefield.
Previously, he said Western armor “will burn like the rest” of the weapons supplied to Kiev.