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Poland Considering Sending Tanks to Ukraine Even Without Express German Approval


FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech in front of a Leopard 2 tank during a visit to a military base of the German army Bundeswehr in Bergen, Germany, Oct. 17, 2022.
FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech in front of a Leopard 2 tank during a visit to a military base of the German army Bundeswehr in Bergen, Germany, Oct. 17, 2022.

Poland's prime minister said Monday that his country is building a coalition of nations ready to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine even if Germany does not give formal permission for such transfers.

Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters that Poland will seek Germany's permission, but that asking for Berlin's approval is of secondary importance.

"We are constantly exerting pressure on the government in Berlin to make its Leopards available," Morawiecki said.

A Polish government spokesman, Piotr Mueller, later told state television that seeking Germany's permission was "an important gesture and we will certainly carry it out in the coming days."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French TV channel LCI on Sunday that if Poland were to request permission to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, "We would not stand in the way."

Until Baerbock's comments, Germany had been reticent to send its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine or approve their transfer by countries that purchased the tanks from Germany.

Ukraine has long sought heavy tanks to combat Russian forces using more modern tanks than those in Ukraine's arsenal.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote Monday on Telegram that what Ukraine needs is not 10-20 tanks, "but several hundred" in order to achieve its goal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the debate among European countries about whether to send Ukraine tanks showed "increasing nervousness" within NATO. He also warned that countries supplying weapons to Ukraine "will carry responsibility for that."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday did not say whether Germany would agree to provide Ukraine with battle tanks, but the Reuters news agency reported that he said such decisions would be made in coordination with allies including the United States.

Scholz's spokesman reiterated Monday that the government "does not rule out" the tanks' transfer but said: "It has not yet been decided."

At the U.S. State Department, Ned Price fielded questions from reporters asking if the United States would support other countries supplying Leopards without Germany's approval.

While Price did not directly answer the questions, he said, "We may be hearing more from our German allies in the coming hours, in the coming days."

French President Emmanuel Macron said he does not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. He cautioned, however, that sending tanks must not endanger France's security or escalate the war between Ukraine and Russia.

British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said Sunday in an interview with Sky News he would like to see the Ukrainians "equipped with things like the Leopard 2."

In Brussels Monday, EU foreign ministers approved a further 500 million euro package of military support for Ukraine. The new aid brings the total amount of EU spending in Ukraine to 3.6 billion euros.

On the battlefield, Russian and Ukrainian troops remain largely static on the front lines, according to a senior U.S. military official who briefed reporters Monday. The official said the exceptions relate to Ukrainian counteroffensive efforts in the eastern city of Kreminna and Russia's efforts to take territory near the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Russia is sending in replacements for units that are seeing heavy casualties, particularly around Bakhmut, according to the official.

In other developments Monday, Zelenskyy said in his evening video address that personnel changes are being carried out in Ukraine's government. The comments come a day after anti-corruption police said they had detained the deputy infrastructure minister over allegations he received a $400,000 bribe over the import of generators last September.

"There are already personnel decisions — some today, some tomorrow — regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement," Zelenskyy said.

VOA's National Security Correspondent, Jeff Seldin, contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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