The first German Leopard 2 and UK Challenger tanks have arrived in Ukraine, it was reported on March 28.
A total of 18 Leopard 2 tanks promised by the German government have arrived in Kyiv, Der Spiegel reported, citing its own sources. On the same day first Challenger 2 tanks pledged by the UK are in Ukraine, the Defence Ministry reported as cited by the Kyiv Independent.
On January 14, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the delivery of 14 Challenger 2 tanks and around 30 AS90 self-propelled 155mm howitzers as part of a major new package of military aid for Ukraine.
Approximately two months after the decision by the German authorities to supply 18 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the main battle tanks arrived after leaving Germany at the end of last week. About 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles were also delivered to Ukraine. The German government is keeping the exact route of arms supplies secret for security reasons, the magazine says.
Initially, Germany promised to supply 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine. However, there were not enough vehicles for a tank battalion, and Berlin decided to send four more vehicles to Kyiv.
There are another four Canadian Leopard tanks already in Poland that have been used to train Ukrainian tank crews in the use of the cutting-edge powerful tanks.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius stated that he was sure the tanks could "make a decisive contribution" on the front lines of the war. Separately the government said that it will increase its defence aid to Ukraine to €15bn in the coming years, Der Spiegel reported.
The Ukrainian government is yet to comment on the arrival of the Leopard 2s, but they have confirmed the arrival of the first UK-made Challenger 2 tanks. Ukraine has been requesting more modern vehicles and weapon systems to help fight Russia's invasion since the start of the war over a year ago.
Germany initially showed reluctance to supply the tanks to Ukraine, or even permit other countries to send their own. However, Germany agreed to supply the tanks to Ukraine in January. Under German law, Berlin must approve Leopard 2s being re-exported by any country.
A total of 2,000 Leopard 2s are in use by European countries and a total of some 400 tanks have been promised to Ukraine by various Nato allies.
These tanks are widely regarded as being among the best main battle tanks produced by Nato countries.
The German army has trained Ukrainian tank crews to use the advanced A6 variant of the Leopard 2 over the past several weeks. The Leopard 2s have been specifically designed to compete with the Russian T-90 main battle tank and are considered to be easier to maintain and more fuel-efficient than most other Western tanks.
In addition to the Leopard 2s, Germany has also sent Ukraine two specialist tank-recovery vehicles and 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles. The UK Ministry of Defence has declined to comment, but earlier confirmed Ukrainian tank crews training in Britain had returned home after completing their training with the tanks.
Posting a picture of a Challenger 2 alongside other Western-made military vehicles on his Facebook page, Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov described the British vehicle as a work of military art. The arrival of these tanks will help boost the Ukrainian military's capabilities in the ongoing conflict against Russian-backed separatists.