No Leopards pledged yet, but tank crews to start training, says defense chief

22 January, 01:06 PM
Boris Pistorius during the session in the Ramstein format (Photo:REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

Boris Pistorius during the session in the Ramstein format (Photo:REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

Ukrainian tank crews will be trained to operate German-made Leopard 2 tanks, despite the lack of a decision to supply them at the most recent Ramstein meeting of defense ministers, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the U.S. state-funded Voice of America news outlet on Jan. 21.

"Countries that already have Leopard tanks can begin training missions for our tank crews," Ukraine's defense chief told the Ukrainian Service of the Voice of America.

"We will start with that, and we will go from there."

He also noted that he is optimistic about the future provision of German tanks to Ukraine.

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"I hope, Germany will follow their process, conduct their internal consultations, and will arrive at the decision to transfer tanks. I am optimistic regarding this because the first step has been made. We will start training programs for our tank crews on Leopards 2," Reznikov said.

On Twitter, he reported a "frank" conversation with the newly appointed German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius.

"We had a frank conversation about Leopards 2. To be continued," the Ukrainian official wrote.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, which is the only partner nation so far to have officially announced the delivery of modern tanks – Challenger 2 – to Ukraine, will soon begin training Ukrainian troops, Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK, told Radio Liberty.

"Crews of heavy artillery systems are already training, and tank operators will arrive soon," the Ukrainian diplomat said.

According to Prystaiko, the training "will not take much time" because, as British instructors have noted, the Ukrainians are motivated and learn very quickly.

"When we train infantrymen here — you know, we have already trained 10,000, and since the beginning of the new year, we have started training another 20,000 — it takes five weeks," the ambassador said.

"It's hard to say how long it will take to train tankers, especially since they include artillerymen, mechanics, and commanders."

According to the diplomat, Ukrainian tank operators will be able to complete the training "in a month and a half, or so."

"If necessary, the training will continue as it was the case before," Prystaiko said.

According to the ambassador, the tanks themselves are also being pre-pared for shipping to Ukraine.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (Фото: Getty Images)
Chancellor Olaf Scholz / Фото: Getty Images

On Jan. 20, Ramstein Air Base in Germany hosted the eight meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, consisting of defense ministers and senior military officials from over 50 countries.

These "Ramstein meetings” have typically resulted in renewed military aid to Ukraine, though the latest summit failed to reach a decision on supplying Ukraine with modern German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

Dozens of European countries have hundreds of Leopards, which the Ukrainian military has said are critically needed for a new Ukrainian offensive – and Poland and Finland have indicated their readiness to send them.

However, these tanks are manufactured by Germany, whose regulations state that the re-export of Leopard tanks must first be approved by Berlin, which has so far refused to do so.

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