Ottawa will donate four of the Canadian Forces’ Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to Ukraine as Kyiv continues to defend itself against invading Russian forces.
National Defence Minister Anita Anand made the commitment on Thursday, ending the debate over whether Canada would ship battle tanks from its military stockpile to Ukraine.
Anand also said that Ottawa is providing trainers, spare parts and ammunition. She left open the possibility of sending more Leopards in the future.
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The Leopards that the federal government is donating are among 112 currently owned by the Canadian Armed Forces, which includes 82 designed for combat.
“This donation, combined with the contributions of allies and partners, will significantly help the armed forces of Ukraine as they fight heroically to defend their nation’s freedom and sovereignty,” Anand said.
“These heavily armoured and highly protected vehicles provide soldiers with a tactical advantage on the battlefield. Thanks to their excellent mobility, their firepower and their survivability, these tanks will allow Ukraine to liberate even more of its territory and defend its people from Russia’s brutal invasion.”
Anand added the tanks will be sent to Ukraine in the “coming weeks,” and that they are “combat-ready.”
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U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday the U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, reversing months of persistent arguments by Washington that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
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The U.S. decision follows Germany’s move to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks. Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia’s wrath without the U.S. similarly committing its own tanks.
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“This is the result of intensive consultations, once again, with our allies and international partners,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told German lawmakers. “It was right and it is important that we didn’t let ourselves be driven (into making the decision).”
Biden said European allies have agreed to send enough tanks to equip two Ukrainian tank battalions or a total of 62 tanks.
“With spring approaching, Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they hold and preparing for additional counter offences,” Biden said. “To liberate their land, they need to be able to counter Russia’s evolving tactics and strategy on the battlefield in the very near term.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed satisfaction at the news. Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means they can give some of their stocks to Ukraine.
More to come.
— with files from The Associated Press.
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