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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - WASHINGTON/BERLIN — After months of reluctance, the US and Germany reportedly plan to send tanks to Ukraine, in what Kyiv hopes will be a game-changer on the battlefield.
The German government has given the green light to the shipment of "Leopard 2" tanks to Ukraine, according to reports in Der Spiegel.
US President Joe Biden's administration is expected to announce plans to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks.
Russia's ambassador to the US blasted the news as "another blatant provocation".
Ukrainian officials have said such shipments could help its forces seize back territory from the Russians.
Britain has already said it will send Challenger Two tanks to Ukraine.
Until now, the US and Germany have resisted internal and external pressure to send their tanks to Ukraine.
Washington has cited the extensive training and maintenance required for the high-tech Abrams.
Berlin has expressed caution about Nato becoming a direct party to the war with Russia.
The German online news website said the government is prepared to authorize the transfer of at least one company behind the "Leopard 2A6" model to the embattled country.
Berlin has been facing increasing international pressure over the past few days to approve the dispatch of the tanks to Ukraine. Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, had the final say, and it is believed that the government will also approve licenses for other allied countries to deploy the tanks to Ukraine.
Citing anonymous sources, US media outlets are reporting that an announcement regarding Abrams shipments to Ukraine could come as soon as Wednesday.
Unnamed officials were cited as saying at least 30 of the vehicles could be sent.
The timeline of any potential delivery, however, remains unclear, and it could take months or even years for the US combat vehicles to reach the battlefront.
According to US media reports, German officials had privately insisted they would only agree to the transfer of Leopard 2s to Ukraine if the US also sent M1 Abrams.
"If the Germans continue to say we will only send or release Leopards on the conditions that Americans send Abrams, we should send Abrams," Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a Biden ally, told Politico on Tuesday.
With almost 3,500 units active in 19 other countries worldwide, Rheinmetall AG, a German defense contractor that makes the 120mm smoothbore gun on the Leopard 2, says the tank has been deployed by “more nations than any other."
Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the manufacturer of the Leopard 2, touts it as “the world's leading battle tank" that for nearly a half-century has combined aspects of firepower, protection, speed and maneuverability, making it adaptable to many types of combat situations.
The 55-ton tank has a crew of four and a range of about 500 kilometers, and top speeds of about 68 kilometers per hour. Now with four main variants, its earliest version first came into service in 1979.
Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to Washington, wrote on Telegram: "If the United States decides to supply tanks, then justifying such a step with arguments about 'defensive weapons' will definitely not work.
"This would be another blatant provocation against the Russian Federation." — Agencies
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