Berlin, Jan 24 (EFE).- The German government has approved the shipment of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and is ready to authorize the transfer to that country at least a company – usually 14 tanks – according to weekly magazine Der Spiegel and the NTV television channel.
The Leopard 2A6 tanks will come from the existing inventory of the German army and the government is also authorizing other countries, like Poland, to send their own Leopard tanks to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
Poland has officially requested Germany’s permission to transfer German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine amid swelling pressure for Berlin to give the green light.
“The Germans have already received our request for consent to the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said in a tweet Tuesday.
“I also appeal to the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks. This is our common cause, because it is about the security of the whole of Europe!” the Polish defense minister added.
The state-of-the-art Leopard 2’s are of German manufacture and thus the shipment of those tanks to Ukraine by other countries requires the approval of the German government.
The report, which was made public by Der Spiegel, will be confirmed on Wednesday in an announcement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Germany’s daily Bild newspaper reported.
Ukraine had been requesting for months that NATO countries send it Leopard 2’s, deeming the formidable weapons vital for halting the advance of Russian troops on its territory but the three-party German coalition government was internally split on whether or not to do so and thus Germany delayed its decision until now.
The official argument from Berlin was that any shipment had to be coordinated with other Western allies supporting Ukraine.
The Leopard 2 has a four-man crew and can fire at targets up to 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) away, weighs more than 60 tons, can travel at up to 70 kilometers (43 miles) per hour and has a periscope that enables it to move through flooded zones and rivers up to four meters (13 feet) deep.
Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, discussed the matter with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, with both insisting that a decision would be made shortly.
“We discussed the issue of battle tanks,” Stoltenberg told a press conference. “Consultations among Allies will continue and I am confident that we will have a solution soon.”
He added: “And I welcome also the clear message from the (defense) minister that our other Allies, other NATO Allies, that have Leopard battle tanks are of course free to identify those Leopard battle tanks that may be available for Ukraine. To make them ready, but also to start training Ukrainian crews for those battle tanks.”
The United Kingdom and France have also offered to ship tanks to Ukraine, a move that would bolster the country’s forces on the battlefield against Russia.
Poland and the Baltic states recently had upped the pressure on the German government to grant its permission for the transfer of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukrainian forces.