Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that Germany had handed over promised Leopard tanks to Ukraine, providing Kiev with much-needed heavy weapons for Russia.
The delivery of what Scholz calls “very modern” German tanks comes about two months after Berlin finally gave the go-ahead to send them.
Ukraine has appealed to its Western allies to deliver on promises of heavy weapons to push back Russian forces ahead of a possible spring counteroffensive by Kiev.
When asked to confirm news agency Der Spiegel’s report, Scholz said at a press conference in Rotterdam with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “Yes, we have delivered the Leopard tanks as announced.”
“We are offering very modern (tanks) that we are currently offering.”
Der Spiegel reports that Berlin has handed over 18 advanced Leopards, the last of which left Germany last weekend and was handed over to Ukraine at the border.
The German Ministry of Defense later confirmed the delivery of 18 Leopards, along with two armored “baffle” tank recovery vehicles.
About 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles have also arrived in Ukraine, it said.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement: “Our tank arrived in the hands of our Ukrainian friend on time, as promised.
“I’m sure they can make a difference on the ground.”
Spiegel said Berlin kept delivery routes secret for security reasons.
– ‘dangerous’ –
Ukrainian soldiers trained at a German military base in the 2A6, the most advanced of the Leopard models. They are also trained at Spanish bases.
At the end of January, Berlin finally gave the green light to send one of the world’s most advanced tanks, the Leopard, used by armies across Europe, to Ukraine.
The US also said it would send advanced American Abrams tanks.
Under German law, any country that wants to send tanks to another country must first obtain approval from Berlin.
The Scholz government initially said it was aiming with its allies to form two tank battalions for Kiev, with a total of about 60 tanks.
Since then, however, they’ve struggled to put the numbers together.
The German and Dutch cabinets held a special joint meeting on Monday at the huge mirrored depot of the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in the port city of Rotterdam.
Scholz and Rutte said they had discussed military support for Ukraine and a “unique” military cooperation between Germany and the Netherlands, including the integration of some armed forces.
“Europe’s message is still perfectly clear, more than a year later,” Rutte said.
The Dutch Prime Minister also condemned recent Russian statements, including former President Dmitry Medvedev talking about targeting the International Criminal Court in The Hague with hypersonic missiles.
Earlier this month, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russia’s Vladimir Putin on suspicion of war crimes.
“I think this kind of statement is irresponsible and dangerous,” Rutte said.
“That also applies to the threat of deploying nuclear weapons in Belarus,” he said, referring to Putin’s announced plans to deploy tactical atomic bombs in Russia’s ally Belarus.
https://www.expatica.com/nl/general/germany-delivers-leopard-tanks-to-ukraine-562991/ Germany hands over Leopard tanks to Ukraine