April 19. 2024. 9:35

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Spain to send first shipment of Leopard tanks to Kyiv after Easter

Spain will send the first shipment of six Leopard battle tanks it had promised to Kyiv right after Easter, with four other tanks currently being overhauled for the same purpose, Defence Minister Margarita Robles confirmed on Wednesday.

The six tanks have already been updated at the Santa Bárbara Sistemas (General Dynamics-Spain) factory in Alcalá de Guadaíra, Seville, and are undergoing firing exercises at the Cerro Muriano, Córdoba, this week to fine-tune their combat systems.

Spain is also currently training 55 Ukrainian soldiers, including 40 in handling the tanks as crew and 10 in their maintenance.

Robles (PSOE/S&D) provided a few details of the operation before parliament on Wednesday.

Robles’ attendance in parliament was demanded by separatist parties EH Bildu (Basque country) and Catalan ERC. Sending Spanish tanks to the Ukrainian battlefield is a decision of “great importance” for the implications it could have on the escalation of the conflict, both pro-independence political formations have stressed.

The left-wing coalition of PSOE and Unidas Podemos (GUE-NGL) has had to face the controversial “Leopard question”.

Unidas Podemos’s Secretary General and Minister for Social Rights, Ione Belarra, expressed her party’s opposition to the decision in January. “It is time to lead the diplomatic way“, she said, warning of “unforeseeable” consequences of the shipment of Spanish tanks.

The ten Leopard tanks are of the 2A4 model and are part of the more than fifty stored for a decade in an Army facility in Casetas (Zaragoza, northeast).

According to the tender contract, Spain’s Defence Ministry budgeted €4.1 million for the overhaul of the Leopards, a sum that includes the upgrade of the ten Leopards.

Spain has 347 Leopard battle tanks, of which it purchased 108 of the 2A4 model, the oldest currently operational, from Germany in the 1990s. The other 239 are the so-called 2E, a local version assembled in Spain and one of the most modern.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)