Germany approves Leopard 1 battle tank exports to Ukraine

Package of 29 older tanks could be sent to help fight Russia as soon as refurbishments done, reports say

Germany has approved the export of older Leopard 1 battle tanks, which would add to the raft of fighting vehicles Berlin promised last week it would send to Ukraine.

A spokesperson said on Friday that Olaf Scholz’s government had granted an export licence for the German-made tanks first produced in the 1960s and replaced within Germany’s own military by Leopard 2 tanks in 2003. Further details would be provided in the coming days and weeks, they said.

The news magazine Der Spiegel said the package contained 29 Leopard 1 battle tanks that were being refurbished by two manufacturers. Deliveries of the tanks from the industrial stocks could be made as soon as they were repaired, said Süddeutsche Zeitung, which first reported the plan on Friday morning.

After weeks of hesitation, Berlin last week confirmed it would make 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks available for Ukraine’s war effort, and give partner countries permission to re-export further battle tanks to Kyiv, overcoming misgivings about sending heavy weaponry that Ukraine regards as being crucial to defeating the Russian invasion.

Germany is also understood to be in the process of preparing a joint weapons package with Sweden in which Stockholm would provide air defence missiles and launching platforms for Germany’s Iris-T systems.

Robert Habeck, the German deputy chancellor and economic minister, discussed this joint package in a meeting with the Swedish minister for foreign trade, Johan Forssell, during a state visit on Thursday, one government official said.

Stockholm has in the past rejected passing on launcher platforms to Kyiv. A spokesperson for the new Swedish centre-right government, which has been in power since October last year, told Der Spiegel that it was still in talks over how many Leopard 2 tanks it could deliver, but would not confirm negotiations concerning other systems.

Sweden’s application to join Nato, submitted in the wake of Russia’s invasion, is still pending amid threats of a veto from the alliance member Turkey.

Germany delivered one of the hi-tech air-defence Iris-T systems, which are developed by the German arms manufacturer Diehl, to Ukraine in October, and has authorised the delivery of a further three systems.


Philip Oltermann in Stockholm

The GuardianTramp

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