Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed Britain will supply tanks to Ukraine to help Kiev’s forces “push back Russian troops”.
Owning Street said Mr Sunak made the pledge during a call Saturday morning with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In a sample of the call, a spokeswoman for No 10 said the Prime Minister had offered Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems as a sign of “Britain’s desire to step up our support to Ukraine”.
Mr Zelensky took to Twitter to thank the UK for decisions that “not only strengthen us on the battlefield but also send the right signal to other partners”.
This makes Britain the first western power to supply the Ukrainians with main battle tanks.
UK government insiders said the decision on tanks must be taken now to ensure Ukrainian soldiers could be trained on mobile weapons ahead of a possible spring offensive.
Ministers hope the announcement will encourage other allies to follow suit.
Mr Sunak’s formal offer follows reports that he was preparing to sign off on the immediate dispatch of four British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Eastern Europe, with eight more to follow shortly thereafter.
No 10 has not yet confirmed the exact number of tanks it will send to Kyiv.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister and Mr Zelensky agreed “this moment must be seized” after Ukrainian victories “pushed back Russian troops”.
“The Prime Minister has outlined Britain’s intention to step up our support to Ukraine, including through the deployment of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems,” the spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister and President Zelenskyi welcomed other international commitments in this direction, including Poland’s offer to provide a company of Leopard tanks.
“The Prime Minister stressed that he and the entire British government would work intensively with international partners to quickly provide the kind of support that will enable Ukraine to realize its advantage, win this war and secure a lasting peace.”
Labour’s shadow defense secretary said the prime minister had his party’s “full support” for the decision to supply Ukraine with tanks.
John Healey said: “Modern tanks are crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to win its fight against Russian aggression.”
Both Kyiv and Moscow are reportedly preparing for a spring offensive as the weather warms and the Ukrainian mud dries up.
The Times reported that there were fears in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin could deploy up to 500,000 troops on the front lines by April-April.
Earlier this week, Western officials warned that Ukraine would not be able to retake significant territory from Russia without increasing combat capabilities — including tanks and other heavy armaments.
There were concerns within NATO that the supply of tanks by the Russians could be seen as a further escalation of the conflict.
It comes after the US pledged 50 Bradley armored personnel carriers in its biggest-ever military aid package to Ukraine.
Germany also announced it would deliver around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers, and France promised AMX-10 RC wheeled tank destroyers.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/sunak-offers-ukraine-british-challenge-2-tanks-to-help-push-back-russian-troops-42286283.html Sunak offers Ukraine British Challenge 2 tanks to push back Russian troops