German government approves delivery of Leopard 1 main battle tanks

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BERLIN (dpa-AFX) – Ukraine is expected to receive many more German Leopard main battle tanks than previously expected. After the commitment of 14 Leopard 2s by the Bundeswehr, the German Government on Friday also gave the green light for the export of old Leopard 1 type tanks from industrial stocks. “It is the stated willingness of the German government to also make these Leopard 1 tanks, which after all come from industry, available to Ukraine,” said German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Green) in Västerås, Sweden.

He has not yet revealed how many tanks were involved. According to the then ambassador Andrij Melnyk, the Rheinmetall company based in Düsseldorf had already offered Ukraine 88 Leopard-1 tanks in April last year. “Unfortunately, too much precious time was wasted to turn the difficult situation on the front in favor of Ukraine much faster,” the current deputy foreign minister told the German Press Agency.

Ukrainian Ambassador: ‘We have no time to lose’

The current ambassador of Ukraine, Oleksii Makeiev, told dpa that they are in exchange with the German side to now bring the tanks to the front quickly. “We have no time to lose.” Makeiev saw the export approval as a clear sign that Germany and other allies want to help Ukraine win the war against the Russian aggressors. “Today’s announcement is also another sign that Ukraine’s allies have no more illusions about the goals of the terrorist regime in the Kremlin in Ukraine and will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes until Ukraine wins .”

Repairs can take many months

According to a report in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” in addition to Rheinmetall, Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) is also planning to refurbish Leopard 1s for export to Ukraine. According to previous information, FFG bought a total of 99 examples of the 1A5 variant from Danish stocks back in 2010. It is not known how many of these have been sold or used elsewhere in the meantime. The company did not respond to a dpa inquiry on Friday.

The review is likely to take many months, Rheinmetall has already made it clear. “Even if the decision is made tomorrow to be able to send our Leopard tanks to Kiev, the delivery will take until the beginning of next year,” Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger told Bild am Sonntag in the middle of January. “The vehicles will not only be repainted, but will have to be converted for wartime use. They will be completely dismantled and then rebuilt.”

More details “in the coming days and weeks”

Last week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced the delivery of 14 Leopard 2 tanks after a long period of hesitation. Together with the alliance partners, Germany plans to equip two Ukrainian battalions with these more modern variants of the Leopard; in the Bundeswehr, one tank battalion has 44 tanks.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit did not want to comment in more detail on the approval of Leopard 1 exports. “At this stage I do not want to say much more, this will then become more concrete in the days and the -the next few weeks,” he just said.

The first Leopard 1 delivered in 1965

The Leopard 1 is the first main battle tank built for the Bundeswehr after World War II. From 1965 to the mid-1980s, 4700 units were produced. The Bundeswehr took its last Leopard 1 tanks out of service 20 years ago.

However, nine countries on five continents still use the tank today, according to the manufacturer. Among them are Chile and Brazil, two countries that Scholz has just visited. According to Brazilian media reports, the German government also sought ammunition for the Leopard 1 before the trip. However, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva refused Scholz any ammunition deliveries. NATO partners Turkey and Greece also still have large numbers of Leopard 1 tanks.

Melnyk: “There should be no more new red lines”

Melnyk said that there could be problems with the acquisition of ammunition for the Leopard 1. He also asked the federal government to “really step on the gas after the break of the Leo taboo and start deliveries of new weapons without delay.” Again, he also called for Tornado fighter jets, warships and submarines for the Ukrainian forces. “There should be no more new red lines to support Ukraine in its fight for survival with all the weapons available in Germany.”/mfi/DP/stw

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