The UK government is set to supply Ukraine with a fresh package of lethal military equipment, including heavy battle tanks, despite Russia’s warning against fanning the flames of war by sending military supplies to Kiev.
In a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to supply a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems, with the first units of armored vehicles to be delivered immediately.
“The prime minister outlined the UK’s ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems,” a spokesperson for Sunak said.
British Sun newspaper quoted a Downing Street source earlier yesterday that the group of four Challenger 2 tanks will be delivered immediately, with a further eight following shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, Zelensky welcomed the UK's decision, saying it would "send the right signal" as Kiev has been pressing allies for more heavy weapons.
"In a conversation with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, I thanked (him) for the decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners," Zelensky said on Twitter.
The move makes the UK the first Western power to supply the Ukrainians with main battle tanks.
The Challenger 2, designed and built by the British company, Vickers Defense Systems, is a battle tank that has been in service with the UK army since 1994. The tank has previously been deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Iraq.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Saturday that the UK has committed £2.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine.
Germany mulls sending Western tanks to Kiev
The Ukrainian government has also piled pressure on Germany, which last week said it was sending Marder fighting vehicles to Kiev.
German economy minister also said Berlin cannot rule out the delivery of the Leopard tanks, which are heavier fighting vehicles than the Marders.
According to the Bloomberg news agency, the German federal government is set to announce its decision on the supply of Western tanks to Ukraine next week.
According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Finland, Poland, and three other countries are ready to transfer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine but are waiting for Germany's decision.
"The French struck the first, let's say, blow on this wall from a light-wheeled tank... The French are doing great, they took the first step. Then the Poles... But the promise of Leopard is the second such step," the Minister said.
"And I know at least three other countries that are ready to do this, but they don't talk about it yet, because they want to say it out loud only when they are one hundred percent sure that the Germans will come out and say ‘we are for it’," Kuleba added.
The Ukrainian government has long requested the mass-produced, German-made Leopard 2 tanks, used by several European allies.
Germany follows a more cautious approach to equipping Ukraine with weapons than other countries such as the UK and the United States.
Russia started its "special military operation" in Ukraine with the declared aim of "de-Nazifying" the country on February 24, 2022.
Since then, the United States and Europe have imposed waves of unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow and supplied large consignments of heavy weaponry to Kiev. The Kremlin has time and again warned the sanctions and the Western military assistance will only prolong the war.
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