Ukraine: President Zelensky announces coalition of modern tanks
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Belgian ministers have stopped short of sending tanks to Ukraine as part of a massive aid package aimed at refitting Ukrainian forces in the field. Belgium has joined other NATO member states in pledging material to Kyiv’s war effort but will not be shipping modern tanks.
Questioned last week, Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder recalled that “the amount of current aid, not counting anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment, already amounts to €90 million euros”.
On Wednesday evening, Ms Dedoner repeated that this “substantial aid” will include “anti-aircraft and anti-tank equipment and more ammunition”.
It comes as a host of countries led by the United States, Germany, and Poland, announced plans to send tanks to Ukraine.
Defending Belgium’s decision not to follow suit, Ms Dedoner told Bel-RTL: “We no longer have any tanks in the Belgian Defence stocks. About ten years ago, it was decided to sell these tanks, €10,000 to €15,000 each.
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“Nothing prevents us from buying them back, but they are not operational.
“And Belgian companies are making an unreasonable margin with a proposed resale price of 500,000 euros each when there has been no refurbishment work.”
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Belgium has supplied a range of weapons including FNC assault rifles and the more modern SCARs, as well as F2000s.
Military aid has also included light and heavy machine guns, a number of LAW rocket launchers, and Carl Gustav anti-tank grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles.
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Last week defence officials from about 50 countries gathered at Ramstein air base in Germany at the invitation of US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss ongoing military aid to Ukraine.
Germany has said it will supply 14 high-tech Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and authorize other European countries to send up to 88 more.
The US said it planned to ship 31 Abrams M1 tanks to Ukrainian forces.
Along with Germany and the US, Britain, Poland, the Netherlands, and Sweden are among the nations that have sent or announced plans to supply hundreds of tanks and heavy armored vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and tries to break through entrenched Russian lines.
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Gian Gentile, a US Army veteran and senior historian with the Rand think tank, said the M1 Abrams and the Leopards would give Ukraine a “mechanized armored punching force.”
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Ukrainian crews will start their training in Germany in the coming days on German-made Marders, which are infantry fighting vehicles, while training on the heavier Leopard 2 tanks would start “a little later.”
“In any case, the aim with the Leopards is to have the first company in Ukraine by the end of March, beginning of April,” he added. “I can’t say the precise day.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declined to speculate on the timing of the tanks’ arrival but told Britain’s Sky News the “allies are extremely focused on the importance of speed.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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