GERMANY has finally given in to Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas and decided to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, it is reported.
But it is understood Scholz had now relented amid huge international pressure and will send the crucial tanks to Ukraine, and allow other countries such as Poland to do so, reports German magazine Der Spiegel.
Germany’s Leopards, fielded by armies across Europe, are widely seen as the best option, available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain.
The decision concerns at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks that will be provided out of Bundeswehr stocks, the outlet said.
Other allies, in Scandinavia for example, reportedly intend to go along with Germany in supplying their Leopard tanks to Kyiv.
In the longer term, more tanks could be restored to be fit for use, according to the magazine.
Authorities in The Netherlands are also understood to be considering shipping 18 Leopard 2 tanks, which they have leased from Germany, to Ukraine.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte told FAZ: “We leased them, which means we can buy them, which means we can donate them.”
Some 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks can be found in the ranks of NATO armies and footage shows exactly why they are so highly regarded.
Incredible footage shows a soldier balancing his pint on the barrel of the Leopard 2 before it drives off without spilling a drop in a demonstration of how stable it is.
The tank was developed for the West German army in the Seventies and entered into service at the end of that decade.
It’s powered by a diesel engine and is equipped with a powerful 120mm cannon and advanced night vision.
Germany’s U-turn comes after it refused to lift a ban on sending the tanks as allies last week pledged to give Ukraine hundreds of heavy weapons for its fight against Russia.
Berlin refused to authorise other countries to re-export them to Ukraine – but has now backed down.
Zelensky told a defence chiefs’ meeting in Ramstein, Germany, that tanks were vital to victory.
He said: “Time remains a Russian weapon. We need to speed up.”
Several allies echoed Zelensky in saying the tanks were essential to Ukraine’s fight with its much larger neighbour.
In a joint statement – a rare public criticism of Europe’s leading power – the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states called “on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now.”
They said: “This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly.
“Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is poised to approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, US officials said Tuesday.
The decision could be announced as soon as Wednesday, though it could take months or years for the tanks to be delivered.