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UPDATE: Poland delivers first Leopard tanks to Ukraine

24.02.2023 15:00
Poland’s defence minister has said that his country has delivered its first batch of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to help Ukraine fight Russia.
Polands Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak (centre) attends a meeting of the counrys National Security Council, at the presidential palace in Warsaw, on Friday, February 24, 2023.
Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak (centre) attends a meeting of the counry's National Security Council, at the presidential palace in Warsaw, on Friday, February 24, 2023. PAP/Paweł Supernak

Mariusz Błaszczak made the announcement at the beginning of a meeting of Poland’s National Security Council in Warsaw on Friday, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.

The National Security Council advises the president and includes senior officials such as the Speakers of both houses of parliament, the prime minister, the defence, interior and foreign ministers, and prominent politicians from both the government and opposition.

‘Leopard tanks from Poland arrived in Ukraine today’: defence minister

Błaszczak said: “Today, Leopard tanks from Poland have arrived in Ukraine.” 

Outlining Poland’s security assistance to its war-torn neighbour, Błaszczak said that on January 11 President Andrzej Duda put forward the idea of creating a coalition of countries that would provide Western-made tanks to Ukraine. 

“And we have indeed built such a coalition,” Błaszczak said. 

Poland had pledged that a company of 14 Leopard tanks would be handed to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, news outlets reported.

"In this respect, our cooperation with Germany has played a fundamental role,” Błaszczak told the National Security Council meeting on Friday.

He also thanked his counterparts from Norway, Canada, Finland and other countries, adding: “We have ensured that a battalion of tanks for Ukraine has been assembled."

The Polish defence minister, who is also a deputy prime minister, revealed that as Leopard tanks from Poland arrived in Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers were "simultaneously being trained on Leopards by Polish, Canadian and Norwegian instructors at a centre in Świętoszów” in southwestern Poland.

‘Poland is the first country to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine’: president

The Polish president said that the National Security Council was meeting without Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who travelled to Kyiv on Friday to reaffirm Poland’s support for Ukraine, one year after the start of the Russian invasion.

Duda told the gathering in opening remarks: “The prime minister went to Kyiv to deliver our Leopards, the first tanks to reach Ukraine from that coalition of tank assistance that we have initiated.”

He said he was pleased that Poland was "leading the way in this respect too.”

He added: “And so from this point of view, it’s good that the prime minister is implementing this matter today, especially because today is not a random day, it’s the anniversary of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.”   

Poland delivers first four Leopard tanks to Ukraine: PM

The handover of Poland-provided Leopard tanks to Ukraine was later confirmed by government spokesman Piotr Müller, who was accompanying Morawiecki to Kyiv.    

Müller said in a tweet: “Prime Minister Morawiecki has met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Polish prime minister has confirmed the handover of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.”

Müller added: “Together we are defending the security of Ukraine and Europe. Simultaneously we are securing further deliveries and orders regarding modern equipment for the Polish army.” 

At a joint news conference with Zelensky, the Polish prime minister said: “I came here not only with a word of support. Poland, as the first European country, symbolically hands over to you, President Zelensky, the first four Polish Leopard tanks. We will deliver more and urge our EU and NATO partners to do the same.”

Warsaw's commitment has been instrumental in convincing European allies to donate heavy military hardware to Ukraine, including tanks, a move until recently opposed by several capitals, including Berlin, the Reuters news agency reported.

The first delivery comes less than a month after Poland said it sought to get training time on Leopard 2 tanks down to five weeks for Ukrainian soldiers, according to Reuters.

Morawiecki said in an interview with Canadian television in late January that Poland would send an additional 60 battle tanks to Ukraine, on top of the 14 German-made Leopards it had already promised.

Friday is day 366 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters, prezydent.pltvp.info