War in Ukraine: Europeans promise first tanks in Kyiv

War in Ukraine: Europeans promise first tanks in Kyiv

The Bundeswehr demonstrates the Leopard 2 tank for the press in Munster (Germany) on September 28, 2011. The Bundeswehr demonstrates the Leopard 2 tank for the press September 28, 2011 in Munster, Germany. MICHAEL SOHN / AP

This time, too, “the English gentlemen” shot first. The British government, which is already at the forefront of military support to Ukraine, announced on Saturday 14 January that it would deliver fourteen Challenger 2 heavy tanks to soldiers in Kyiv “in the coming weeks”, a first for a Western country since Russian troops invaded Ukraine soil. The delivery “reflects Britain’s ambition to increase its support for Ukraine,” Downing Street said after a phone call between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

So far, Kiev’s western allies have made the delivery of heavy tanks to Kyiv a red line, saying that delivering such powerful vehicles could lead to an escalation with Moscow. But the intensification of Russian attacks on civilians and the prospect of a protracted war if additional aid is not provided to Ukraine finally convinced a number of countries to take the plunge. In addition to Great Britain, Finland and Poland agree to send tanks to Ukraine, but need the green light from Berlin.

“The country’s defense and security authorities believe an opportunity has presented itself as Russia is on the defensive due to supply issues and low morale. The Prime Minister encourages allies to provide their support to Ukraine as soon as possible,” Downing Street said in a press release released on Saturday. In an interview published by The Economist in mid-December 2022, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeri Zaluzhny, estimated that 300 Western tanks – more accurate and more powerful than the Soviet models already being supplied by certain European countries – would be needed to resume its offensives.

London’s full support

This puts Rishi Sunak in line with his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who gave Ukraine unreserved support in 2022. in January 2022 with man-portable NLAW anti-tank missiles to prevent Russian tanks from running towards the Ukrainian capital. According to the Kiel Institute, which counts aid to Ukraine, the United Kingdom is the second largest contributor in terms of military support after the United States. London also announced on Saturday the shipment of 30 AS-90 self-propelled guns.

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