Polish Leopard 2 tanks arrive in Ukraine as Sweden announces more to come

Photo: Ukraine prime minister Denys Shmyhal and Poland prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki share a handshake after the first Polish delivery of Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks arrive in Ukraine (Denys Shmyhal on Twitter)

By Tim Martin

The delivery marks the first foreign gifts of Western-made main battle tanks to Ukraine, a long-sought-after weapon for Kyiv which it hopes to use as part of a planned upcoming spring offensive.

On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, Poland has officially delivered its first tranche of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine — just as the Swedish government announced plans to supply up to 10 of the same vehicles to Kyiv.

The delivery marks the first foreign gifts of Western-made main battle tanks to Ukraine, a long-sought-after weapon for Kyiv which it hopes to use as part of a planned upcoming spring offensive.

Poland said Friday it had delivered four Leopard 2A4 tanks, coinciding with a visit to Kyiv by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, according to the Associated Press. That was confirmed by a tweet from Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal, with a photo of him and Morawiecki shaking hands in front of the tanks. Warsaw is expected to deliver an additional 10 units in the future.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson and defence minister Pal Jonson jointly announced Stockholm’s decision to send up to 10 Leopard 2A5 tanks, as part of a new military aid package for Ukraine.

The Leopard 2A5 tanks, of which Sweden holds 120 units, are in addition to 50 CV90 infantry fighting vehicles previously committed by Stockholm. The latest military aid package for Ukraine, from the Scandinavian nation, also covers the gifting of Hawk air defence system components and ammunition and IRIS-T air defence system components.

“The value of the [Hawk] components and ammunition, if purchased, would be several hundred million euros,” said Jonson in a social media post.

Jonson also said that he had been “inspired” to send more military equipment to Ukraine after personally visiting Odessa and Mykolaiv in December 2022.

An annual report from the Swedish Armed Forces, published Wednesday, revealed that a number of “ongoing renovations” and repairs have forced Swedish Army tanks and combat vehicles to suffer lower availability rates than expected.

Sweden had previously vowed that tanks were not “on the plate” when discussing the matter in January, but pressure from Germany and discussions with the “Leopard family” proved decisive, Kristersson told SVT, Sweden’s public television broadcaster.

The Swedish decision follows German chancellor Olaf Scholz, telling the Munich Security Conference last week that he and other political officials had been “canvassing intensively” to convince more countries to make Leopard 2 donations. He also revealed that Berlin’s gift of 14 Leopard 2A6 vehicles is set to deploy in Ukraine “very soon.”

Around 80 of the main battle tanks, or two battalions, are planned to be delivered, with Canada, Norway, Portugal and Spain also part of the international coalition. Overall, 11 countries have pledged to deliver tanks to Ukraine, according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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