Poland PM: ‘We will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine with or without German approval’

A Leopard battle tank (AP)
A Leopard battle tank (AP)

Poland has indicated it will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, with or without Germany’s permission.

As the producer of the battle vehicles, Germany has a veto on their distribution to other countries. Its ministers have been under increasing diplomatic pressure to send the tanks, or allow other Nato countries to export them, to Ukraine.

Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock signalled a shift in her country’s opposition to sending the weaponry on Sunday evening, stating that Berlin would not stand in the way if Poland were to export them to Kyiv.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday said that Germany’s approval was of “secondary importance”.

“Even if we did not get this approval we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, he told reporters .

“Pressure makes sense, because this weekend, the foreign minister of Germany sent a slightly different message that gives a glimmer of hope that not only Germany will not block [the tanks] but will finally hand over heavy equipment, modern equipment to help Ukraine.”

During an international summit at the US military base in Ramstein on Friday, Berlin again refused to take a decision on the exportation of the Leopard tanks, despite Western allies pledging billions of dollars in weapons for Ukraine.

It prompted the leaders of dozens of major Commons committees to write to Germany’s Defence Ministry, pleading with it to heed the call from President Volodymyr Zelensky and speed up the delivery of military support.

The group, which includes the chairs of 24 major Commons committees and dozens of senior backbenchers, was coordinated by Labour’s Chris Bryant to contact Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius “at this moment of extreme urgency”.

However, in an apparent shift in Germany’s position, Ms Baerbock said her government would not block Poland if it were to send the armoured vehicles.

“For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way,” she told France’s LCI TV.

Meanwhile, protests were staged in South Africa ahead of the arrival of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government regards South Africa as neutral in the Ukraine conflict and has expressed a desire to mediate.

It has abstained from voting on UN resolutions while maintaining close relations with Russia, which is a long term friend of the governing African National Congress when it was a liberation movement opposing white minority rule.

However, South African opposition parties and the Ukrainian community have condemned the visit as insensitive.

In Ukraine fighting is now centred on the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that its forces were improving positions in Ukraine’s southern region of Zaporizhzhia.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said the situation there was “difficult” but stable.

Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to the town of Borodianka in the Kyiv region over the weekend.