Enterprise-Record (Chico)

Germany, Denmark, Netherland­s promise Ukraine Leopard 1 tanks

- By Frank Jordans and Susie Blann

KYIV, UKRAINE >> Germany, Denmark and the Netherland­s announced Tuesday that they plan to provide Ukraine with at least 100 refurbishe­d Leopard 1 battle tanks in the coming months, a pledge that comes as Kyiv anticipate­s a new Russian offensive around the anniversar­y of its invasion.

The announceme­nt followed Germany agreeing last month to allow deliveries of the more modern German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

In a joint statement, the defense ministers of Denmark, Germany and the Netherland­s said the shipment of the older Leopard 1 tanks was part of an effort “to support Ukraine in their endeavor to withstand Russian aggression.”

“(It) will significan­tly enhance Ukraine’s military potential for the restoratio­n of their violated territoria­l integrity,” they said, adding that the delivery would occur “within the coming months” and include logistical support and training.

Ukrainian officials say they expect Russian forces to make a new drive in eastern and southern Ukraine, as the Kremlin strives to secure territory it illegally annexed in late September and where it claims its rule is welcomed.

The anticipate­d Russian push may seek to recapture territory Moscow lost in a late summer counteroff­ensive. Battlefiel­d setbacks in Ukraine have embarrasse­d the Kremlin, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is keen to cement public support for the war.

Some Western military analysts were skeptical, however, of Russia’s ability to mount a large new offensive in coming weeks, particular­ly in time for the Feb. 24 anniversar­y, that might alter the course of the war.

Ukraine and Russia are both still training their new troops and amassing weapons.

News agency dpa quoted Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, as saying during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday that the first 2025 Leopard 1 tanks would reach Ukraine this summer.

Pistorius’ office said German authoritie­s have authorized the export of up to 178 Leopard 1 A5 tanks to Ukraine, but noted that the actual number sent would depend on the refurbishm­ents required.

The three countries that made the pledge said Belgium has also shown interest in participat­ing in the initiative.

Ukrainian officials say they expect Russian forces to make a new drive in eastern and southern Ukraine, as the Kremlin strives to secure territory it illegally annexed in late September and where it claims its rule is welcomed.

The Leopard 1, manufactur­ed between the mid1960s and the mid-1980s, was the first battle tank built for West Germany’s Bundeswehr. The German military hasn’t had any of the tanks since 2003.

Germany last month agreed to send 14 newer Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its military’s current stocks. The country’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the first Leopard 2s could arrive in Ukraine by the end of March. The first Ukrainian soldiers to be trained on the tanks departed for Germany this week.

Several other European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2s, and Germany’s move following weeks of mounting pressure meant that those nations could also give some of their stocks to Ukraine.

In some of the latest fighting in Ukraine, local authoritie­s reported Tuesday that Russian shelling damaged a hospital and apartment buildings.

The shelling in the northeaste­rn town of Vovchansk caused multiple fires late Monday, including at the two-story municipal hospital, the regional State Emergency Service said in an online statement.

Emergency crews evacuated eight civilians from the site before putting out the blaze, which caused no casualties, authoritie­s said.

Vovchansk is in the Kharkiv region, which was occupied by Russia after its full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24 and subsequent­ly retaken by Ukraine in the course of its counteroff­ensive.

Russian forces are “regrouping” as they attempt to break Ukrainian lines in five areas in the country’s east and northeast, the Ukrainian military reported Tuesday.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Moscow was focusing its efforts near the towns of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavliv­ka in the eastern Donetsk province, as well as Kupiansk in Kharkiv province.

In the Donetsk region, Russian forces also kept up their shelling of Vuhledar, a mining town that has become one of Moscow’s key targets, the Ukrainian presidenti­al office said. Five apartment buildings were destroyed in the town, the office said, which had a prewar population of 14,000.

Donetsk province has seen a marked influx of Russian troops in the past few days, according to Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko.

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