British tanks are expected to arrive in Ukraine by the end of March – in time for the anticipated Russian spring offensive.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “everything is going according to plan” with the delivery of the Challenger-2 tanks and that the Ukrainians will start training soon.
Britain was the first country to pledge modern NATO tanks, and now Germany and the US have also pledged to supply dozens of vehicles to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s troops.
Air raid sirens blared in Kiev on Thursday as Russia launched a spate of missiles and drone strikes in response to promises made by Western allies.
Dozens of modern NATO battle tanks are being sent to Ukraine to fight Vladimir Putin’s invasion and end the weeks-long diplomatic deadlock over arms supplies to the country.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz approved the delivery of the Leopard 2 to Kiev, which also allowed other allies who operated the tanks to export them again.
The US has confirmed that it will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to the war zone.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russia was planning a new offensive, saying sending tanks to Ukraine will make a “huge difference” in the country’s ability to win the war.
“This will help them repel Russian offensives, help them recapture territory, liberate more Ukrainian land and win this war to prevail as a sovereign, independent nation,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program .
Defense Secretary Alex Chalk said in the House of Commons that Britain will begin training Ukrainian soldiers in the use and repair of the tank contingent “next week, on Monday”.
Commenting on the arrival of the Challenger 2 tanks in Ukraine, he added: “A very important training program is planned for the end of March and until then, not only for the tank crews who will have to operate this vehicle, but also for those who get to work with the maintenance to be ordered.’
He stressed that equipping Ukraine to expel Russia from its territory is “just as important as equipping it to defend what they already have”.
Meanwhile, British defense officials suggested that Russia’s most advanced tank had been brought to Ukraine before it was operational.
The Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update: “Russia has prepared a small number of T-14 Armata main battle tanks for the first operational deployment of this type in Ukraine.
However, in recent months, deployed Russian forces have been reluctant to accept their assigned first T-14 installment because the vehicles were in such poor condition.
It’s unclear what aspects of the vehicles caused this reaction, but for the past three years Russian officials have publicly described problems with the T-14’s engine and thermal imaging systems.
In 2021, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described the planned 2022 production run as just an “experimental-industrial” batch.
“Deployed T-14 tanks are therefore unlikely to meet the usual standards for new equipment to be considered operational.”
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