The Ukrainian president has told Sky News he is “very happy” and “thankful” that Germany has decided to supply 14 Leopard 2 tanks – but warned the quantity and delivery time of the vehicles is “critical”.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Kay Burley on his 45th birthday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked allies around the world for their support since Russia’s invasion of his country.
“I would like to say thank you to Germany, to Britain and to the United States that they made this decision,” he told Sky News.
He continued: “Overall I am very thankful to the world for the support for Ukraine. But speaking frankly, the number of tanks and the delivery time to Ukraine is critical.”
Mr Zelenskyy learnt that Germany had ended weeks of indecision and decided to send Ukraine the Leopards during the interview with Sky News.
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said Berlin would send the Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and authorised allies to re-export theirs – despite threats from Russia.
After the announcement, the Kremlin said: “These tanks will burn down just like all the other ones.”
What countries are sending tanks to Ukraine?
- The US will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks
- Germany will send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks
- The UK has announced it will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks
- Poland has pledged to send 14 Leopard tanks
Germany’s decision means that other countries, such as Poland and Spain, with stocks of the NATO-standard tank can now send them to Kyiv.
The Russian embassy in Berlin condemned the move as an “extremely dangerous decision” and an “escalation” of the conflict.
Mr Scholz said Germany was “acting in close co-ordination” with its allies.
The aim is to provide Ukraine with two battalions – 88 tanks – together with other allies.
Biden pledged M1 Abrams tanks
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden followed the German announcement by confirming the US would send 31 M1 Abram tanks to Ukraine.
He said armoured capability has been “critical for Ukraine” and the US “will train Ukrainian troops as soon as possible”, adding that Germany had “really stepped up support” of Mr Zelenskyy’s troops.
Alongside the tanks, the US will also send eight M88 recovery vehicles in a military package worth $400m (£323m).
Kremlin: Tanks will burn
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described German and US intentions as “a rather disastrous plan”.
“I am convinced that many specialists understand the absurdity of this idea,” he said on Wednesday.
“Simply because of technological aspects, this is a rather disastrous plan.
“The main thing is, this is a completely obvious overestimation of the potential [the tanks] would add to the armed forces of Ukraine. It is yet another fallacy, a rather profound one.
“These tanks will burn down just like all the other ones… Except they cost a lot, and this will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers.”
Watch the full interview with Mr Zelenskyy on Kay Burley at 7am tomorrow