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Poland Seeks to Send German Tanks to Ukraine


FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech in front of a Leopard 2 tank during a visit to a military base of the German army Bundeswehr in Bergen, Oct. 17, 2022.
FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech in front of a Leopard 2 tank during a visit to a military base of the German army Bundeswehr in Bergen, Oct. 17, 2022.

UPDATED AGAIN WITH MORE COMMENTS: Poland said on Monday it would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine - and would send them whether or not Berlin agreed as long as other countries did too.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday "We will seek this approval."

In his comments on Monday, Morawiecki said that "even if we didn't get such an approval in the end, we will give our tanks to Ukraine anyway - within a small coalition of countries, even if Germany isn't in that coalition", Morawiecki said.

At both Monday's EU meeting in Brussels and last week's meeting of Western defense ministers in Germany, the issue of battle tanks dominated discussions.

"At this point there are no good arguments why battle tanks cannot be provided," Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said. "The argument of escalation does not work, because Russia continues escalating."

The Kyiv government wants the German-made Leopard 2 tank to break through Russian lines and recapture territory this year.

Pressure on Berlin - which must approve re-exports of the Leopard - also came from EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. Latvia's foreign minister said "there are no good arguments" why the battle tanks could not be provided.

Ukrainian officials have been pleading with Western allies to supply them with Leopard tanks for months, but Germany has held back from sending them or allowing other NATO countries to re-export them. Leopards, held by an array of NATO countries, are seen by defense experts as the most suitable for Ukraine.

Germany's foreign minister had said on Sunday that Berlin would not stand in the way if Poland wanted to do so.

Western allies pledged billions of dollars in weapons for Ukraine last week but they failed to persuade Germany to lift its veto on providing the tanks.

But in an apparent shift in Germany's position, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday her government would not block Poland if it tries to send its Leopards.

Baerbock's remarks appeared to go further than Chancellor Olaf Scholz's comments at a summit in Paris earlier that day that all decisions on weapons deliveries would be made in co-ordination with allies, including the United States.

The issue of supplying the German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine has dominated recent discussions among Western allies about how much and what sort of material aid they should give Ukraine as the first anniversary of the Russian invasion nears.

American lawmakers pushed their government on Sunday to export M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, saying that even sending a symbolic number would help push European allies to do the same. Washington has so far held off on promising its tanks, which run on fuel-hungry turbine engines it believes make less sense for Ukraine than Leopards.

The development comes as both sides are believed to be planning spring offensives to break deadlock in what has become a war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Current fighting is centered on the town of Bakhmut in the east, where Russia's Wagner mercenaries and Ukrainian forces have been locked in battle. Russia said on Sunday its forces were improving their positions in Ukraine's southern region of Zaporizhzhia.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers were meeting on Monday discussing using Russian assets frozen in Europe under sanctions - including 300 billion euros ($327 billion) worth of the Russian central bank reserves - and using the money to help rebuild Ukraine from the war.

This report was compiled with data from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.