The U.K. agreed to send next-generation tanks to Kyiv in a bid “to seize on the moment with an acceleration of global military and diplomatic support to Ukraine,” Downing Street announced on Saturday.
The decision, which came following a call between U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, put an end to days of uncertainty on whether London should supply “game-changing” battle tanks like the Challenger 2 to the war-stricken country. It also increased pressure on Germany as Chancellor Olaf Scholz whether to send Leopard 2 tanks.
“The Prime Minister outlined the U.K.’s ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems,” the government said in a statement.
Ukraine had previously requested about 300 tanks — a number that a Western official had described as “not unreasonable” to create the mass needed for a second successful counteroffensive against Russian invaders.
“The Prime Minister and President Zelenskyy welcomed other international commitments in this vein, including Poland’s offer to provide a company of Leopard tanks,” according to the statement.
Warsaw already has pledged to dispatch 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine “as part of the building of an international coalition,” while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears to still be reluctant on whether to satisfy Ukraine’s growing pleas for more weapons.
Sunak’s spokesman said on Wednesday that the U.K. was “accelerating” its support for Ukraine “with the kind of next-generation military technology that will help win this war.” He said tanks such as the Challenger 2 could be a “game-changing capability.”
Attention is now focused on whether Germany will agree to send Leopard 2 tanks. That would paving the way for other EU countries to do the same; as the tanks are German-made, Berlin’s permission is needed.
Western defense ministers are due meet in Germany on Friday, when Berlin is expected to allow partner countries like Poland and Finland to send their German-made Leopards to Ukraine.