UK considering supplying Ukraine with battle tanks for first time

Ukrainian army tank in the Southern Donbas region   (REUTERS)
Ukrainian army tank in the Southern Donbas region (REUTERS)

The British government is considering sending battle tanks to Ukraine for the first time since the Russian invasion.

Defence chiefs have reportedly been in discussions in recent weeks about delivering the British Army’s Challenger 2 tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces.

One source told Sky News that Britain is in talks to supply tanks but a final decision is yet to be made.

It is hoped that the UK could help provoke other Nato allies to also give the military vehicles to Ukraine.

It comes after Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said last week tanks “may well be part” of future support for Ukraine.

But Mr Cleverly did not commit the UK to providing armoured fighting vehicles when asked twice during a press conference, saying that if tanks were to be part of future support then allied nations would need to co-ordinate to decide which countries would provide them.

Ukraine has long requested the mass-produced, German-made Leopard II tanks that are used by European allies including Germany, Poland and Finland.

France and Germany have already agreed to provide light tanks to Ukrainian forces although their reluctance to supply main battle vehicles remains.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The Government has committed to match or exceed last year’s funding for military aid to Ukraine in 2023, and we will continue to build on recent donations with training and further gifting of equipment.

“We have provided over 200 armoured vehicles to Ukraine to date – including Stormer vehicles armed with Starstreak missiles.

“We have also donated tens of thousands of items including helmets and body armour, mobility and logistics vehicles, anti-tank weapons, air defence missiles and systems, winter and medical equipment.”

It comes after the US announced a multi-billion dollar package of military assistance to Ukraine on Friday.

For the first time, it includes Bradley armoured vehicles - known as “tank killers” because of the missiles they fire.

In his nightly televised address on Friday, as his people prepared to celebrate Orthodox Christmas, Ukraine’s president called it “a very powerful package”.

President Zelensky said: “We will get Bradley armoured vehicles - this is exactly what is needed. New guns and rounds, including high-precision ones, new rockets, new drones. It is timely and strong.”

He thanked Joe Biden, US lawmakers and "all the Americans who appreciate freedom, and who know freedom is worth protecting".