Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort (2023)

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22 hr 44 min ago

Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort (1)

Pressure is growing on Germany to sendLeopard 2 tanksto Ukraine, with Kyiv stepping up its pleas and a spat brewing between Berlin and some of its NATO allies.

The German-made Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.

On Friday, Germany failed to reach an agreement with its key Western partners on sending the vehicles, ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive in Ukraine.

But countries are continuing to press the issue this week, while Poland is seeking to build its own coalition to help bolster Ukraine’s military with all-important Leopards.

Here’s what you need to know about the Leopard 2 tanks —and why they’re so important to the war in Ukraine:

  • Leopard 2s are fast, contain a powerful gun, and are easy to maneuver: Each tank contains a 120mm Smoothbore gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun; it can reach speeds of 70 km per hour, or 50 kmp/h when off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features. And there is all-around protection from threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
  • The Leopard 2 is fuel efficient: Leopards meanwhile run on diesel, unlike Abrams, which makes their fuel consumption more efficient and reduces the number of fuel trucks required to support a battalion. This is among the reasons why critics of Berlin’s stance say Leopard 2s should be shipped to Ukraine regardless of whether the US decides to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.
  • There are about 2000 Leopard 2 tanks currently in Europe: In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles spread across Europe, at different levels of readiness. The vast number of units already based near Ukraine, and the Leopard’s relatively low-maintenance demands compared to other models, lead experts to believe the tanks could help Ukraine quickly.
  • 13 European countries have Leopard 2s — but they need Germany's permission to share them: Thirteen European countries, including Poland and Finland, are already in possession of modern German Leopard 2 tanks, which were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. Many of them have agreed to re-export some tanks to Kyiv, but require Germany’s permission.
  • Germany "is not blocking" export of Leopard 2s to Ukraine, EU says: The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Monday reiterated Germany’s position that it would not block another country’s desire to send German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. “The German minister said that Germany is not blocking other countries from doing this,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy, told journalists Monday. “Other countries which wish to export their Leopard tanks can do so. So Germany is not blocking exports of Leopard tanks.”
  • Ukraine's foreign minister says the provision of Leopard 2 tanks is at thefinalstage: Ukraine’s foreign minister said Monday that the provision of German-made Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine was at thefinalstage. “I have no doubt that Leopards will reach us,” Dmytro Kuleba said on Ukrainian television. “We are at thefinalstage.” Kuleba also suggested that the idea of providing aircraft for Ukraine had “moved forward.”

CNN's Mick Krever contributed reporting to this post.

11:07 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Tanzanian national killed while fighting with Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine, Russian state media says

From CNN’s Jo Shelley, Anna Chernova and Bethlehem Feleke

A Tanzanian national has died while fighting with the mercenary group Wagner in Ukraine, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti has reported.

RIA Novosti cited a fellow fighter as saying that 31-year-old Nemes Tarimo had come to Russia to study at the Russian Technological University MIREA. He had later been jailed. “While serving in the colony, he wished to volunteer in the special operation zone,” the report, published on Wednesday, said.

Last Monday, Russian media outlet RIA FAN,part of a media holdings company run by Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, published what it said was video of a memorial service for Tarimo in Goryachiy Klyuch, a town in the Krasnodar region of Russia.

CNN cannot independently verify the video’s authenticity.

The accompanying article on RIA FAN said that Tarimo “fought near Bakhmut as part of the Wagner PMC and died while performing a combat mission” on Oct. 24.

Tarimo’s cousin, Rehema Makrene Kigoga, told CNN that he had got a scholarship to study abroad. She confirmed that he had died but said the family had “no idea that he was ever arrested” and did not know whether or not he had fought in Ukraine.

Some context: The private military contractor has heavily recruited from Russian prisons over the last nine months. Previously it has deployed contingents to Syria and several African countries.

The founder and head ofWagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has visited Wagner fighters on the front line and met former convicts who have completed their six-month tour of duty with Wagner. Prigozhin had promised them that in return for fighting they would be pardoned and be able to return home, rather than to prison.

CNN's Mariya Knight contributed reporting to this post.

10:38 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Former Wagner commander who fled to Norway to seek asylum arrested by immigration authorities

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort (2)

A former commander in Russia’s Wagner mercenary group,who fled to Norway to seek asylum after crossing the country’s arctic border, has been arrested by Norwegian immigration authorities.

Andrei Medvedev said he feared for his life after refusing to renew his service with Wagner, according to an interview with Vladimir Osechkin, head ofhuman rights advocacy groupGulagu.net, earlier in January.

Medvedev said he was afraid of being executed in the same manner of Yevgeny Nuzhin – a defector from Wagner who was killed on camera with a sledgehammer.

"The person concerned has been arrested under the Immigration Act and it is being assessed whether he should be detained" [for a longer period of time],Jon Andreas Johansen, an official from Norway's National Police Immigration Service (NPIC), said in a statement to CNN on Monday.

"Beyond that, we have no comments,"Johansen said.

On Monday,Gulagu.net headOsechkin said in a new statement posted on YouTube that Medvedev called him from the detention center and told him authorities arrested him on Sunday.

Osechkin said Medvedev is appealing tothe prime minister of Norway and journalists for protection and to stop the deportation process.

More on the Wagner group: The mercenary group is headed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and has emerged asa key playerinRussia’s invasion of Ukraine– recently doing much of the fighting in the small eastern town ofSoledar.

The group is often described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s off-the-books troops. It has expanded its footprint globally since its creation in 2014, and has been accused of war crimes in Africa,Syriaand Ukraine.

Just last week, the US announced it would designate the Russian mercenary organizationas a “transnational criminal organization” and impose additional sanctions against the group and its support network across the world.

CNN's Mick Krever andKatharina Krebs contributed reporting to this post.

9:59 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Netherlands will send 8 F-35 fighter jets to Poland as part of NATO effort to guard airspace

From CNN's Mick Krever

Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort (3)

The Netherlands will send eight F-35 fighter jets to Poland at the end of this month, that country’s defense ministry said in a statement on Monday.

“In February and March, four warplanes will be available for the guarding of NATO airspace over eastern Europe, the so-called Air Policing,” the Dutch Defense Ministry said. “The other four F-35s are participating in a training program with allies, so-called Vigilance activities. These trainings increasing the readiness of NATO on the eastern flank and foster cooperation between the various NATO countries.”

The defense ministry said that the warplanes would be able to respond within minutes to intercept an airplane.

“Two F-35s permanent guard NATO airspace, the other two are reserves," the statement noted.

Poland is a NATO member and shares a border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Netherlands has also stepped up its support for Ukraine, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announcing plans to join the US and Germany in sending a Patriot missile defense system to Kyiv during a meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

8:12 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Latvia will downgrade diplomatic ties with Russia, foreign minister says

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston in London

Latvia will downgrade its diplomatic ties with Russia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter Monday.

This decision was made in solidarity with Estonia, and it will go into effect on Feb. 24, he added.

The move comes after Moscow downgraded its diplomatic relationswith Estonia and expelled the Estonian ambassador over allegations of "Russophobia."

9:05 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Pressure continues to mount on Germany to authorize the delivery of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, with Poland pushing for other countries to join it in a "small coalition" willing to transfer the German-made tanks to Kyiv.

Elsewhere, Russia has expelled the Estonian ambassador over accusations of "Russophobia," and the Kremlin has refused to be drawn on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will run for re-election in 2024.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Poland pushing for tank transfer: The Polish government will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine if it manages to “build at least... a small coalition of states” who would do the same, according to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.Any transfer of Leopard 2 tanks would typically require permission from Germany, but Poland would be willing to transfer the German-made tanks with or without Berlin’s approval if other states did too, said Morawiecki.
  • Berlin says it hasn't received any request: Germany's government has not received a request from Poland or any other country for permission to transfer the tanks to Ukraine, said spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.“And if they ask, then there is a certain procedure. I can't tell you whether that will take a few days or several months," said Hebestriet.
  • Ukraine would suffer, says Kremlin: Ukraine will bear the consequences if third countries supply it with tanks,according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.“All the countries that directly or indirectly take part in the pumping [of Ukraine] with weapons and in raising their technological level, are all responsible for it,” Peskov said Monday.
  • Russia expels ambassador: Russia has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Estonia and expelled the country's ambassador over allegations of "Russophobia."The move comes after Estonia hosted a meeting of Western defense officials in its capital city Tallinn last week to pledge further military support to Ukraine.
  • Kremlin coy on Putin reelection: It is "too early" to talk about a potential 2024 election bid for Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.“The president has not made any statements in this regard,” Peskov told reporters Monday when asked whether Putin was seeking to run again.
7:47 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Berlin says it hasn’t yet had any requests to export tanks to Ukraine

From CNN’s Claudia Otto andInkeKappeler

Germany has not received a request from Poland or any other country for permission to transfer the German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a government spokesman said Monday.

"To this hour we have not received a request,“ Steffen Hebestreit told a news conference.“And if they ask, then there is a certain procedure. I can't tell you whether that will take a few days or several months.“

He promised that any application would be “processed with the necessary speed that is required, but of course also with the necessary thoroughness that such procedures demand.”

Poland is one of 13 European countries with German Leopard 2 tanks in its inventory,according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

It has offered to send them to Ukraine and is trying to convince other countries to do the same, but Germany’s permission is typically required to re-export them.

On Sunday, thePoland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieckic said that Europe was “wasting time” on the discussions.

However Hebestreit defended Berlin against such accusations.

“Maybe it's good to weigh and consider a lot of things before you go recklessly into a step that you bitterly regret later,“ he said, adding that other countries, such as Spain, also have qualms about the potential tank transfer.

7:04 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Poland will send Leopard tanks to Kyiv if a "small coalition" of countries agrees to do the same

Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort (4)

The Polish government will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine if it manages to “build at least... a small coalition of states” who would do the same, according to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

If that “condition” is met, Poland would be willing to transfer the German-made tanks with or without Berlin’s approval, Morawiecki told reporters.Any transfer of Leopard 2 tanks would typically require permission from Germany.

“We will apply for such consent, but this is a secondary topic,” Morawiecki said.

“Even if we do not get this consent in the end, as part of a small coalition – (and even if) the Germans were not in this coalition – we will still hand over our tanks, together with others, to Ukraine," he added.

"The condition for us at the moment is to build at least such a small coalition of states and on this issue... we are contacting our partners in Western Europe.”

Ukraine's repeated calls for more tanks have been the subject of high-level diplomatic talks in recent weeks, and Germany has so far resisted the increasing pressure to authorize a tank transfer.

6:54 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Russian foreign minister discussed Ukraine with South African officials at their request, he says

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Here’s why the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are so important to Ukraine's war effort (5)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the situation in Ukraine with South African officials during a visit to the country, he said Monday.

"Upon the request from my colleagues, we have discussed in detail the course of the special military operation in Ukraine, which is aimed at saving civilians and preventing the creation of direct threats to Russian security near our border," Lavrov said, using the Kremlin's euphemism for the war in Ukraine.

"And that is something that the US and NATO allies have been doing for years," Lavrov added during a joint news conference with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor in Pretoria

Lavrov said he believes the talks with his South African colleagues "have been very fruitful," without providing more details about the discussions on Ukraine.

Russia, South Africa and China are set to take part in joint naval drills which are scheduled for next month.

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