June 23. 2024. 1:30

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Kiev calls for Leopard-style ‘international air coalition’ in Spain visit

The Ukrainian Army urgently needs anti-aircraft systems, demining equipment, artillery ammunition, and F-16 fighter jets, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who also made calls for an ‘international air coalition’ to be set up, said at a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart, Margarita Robles (PSOE/S&D) on Wednesday.

After a working meeting with delegations from Spain and Ukraine, Reznikov thanked Spain for the humanitarian and military aid provided so far, particularly for the delivery of Leopard tanks, and asked Madrid for further support, such as demining equipment, artillery ammunition, and anti-aircraft systems.

“We are asking the [Spanish] minister for more help, and anti-aircraft systems are our number one priority”, Reznikov added.

Reznikov also reiterated that his country is “very interested” in F-16 fighter jets and advocated for an “international air coalition” like the one created for Leopard tanks so that an agreement could be reached to send fighter jets to Ukraine.

“I am convinced there will be a day when there will be such an air coalition. It is a question of time, money and political decision”, he said, adding that it would be “paramount” to destroy Russia’s dominance in the air to win the war.

Madrid did not comment on the request, which requires NATO’s approval in coordination with the EU.

‘Roaring with a Spanish accent’

As announced in March, Spain will send six Leopard tanks to Kyiv via Poland, which by the end of the month will be “roaring with a Spanish accent” on Ukrainian territory, Reznikov said.

Spain and Ukraine are “very united at this moment”, said Robles, adding that Ukraine can count on Madrid’s support for as long as necessary and that it is a country that “defends not only its sovereignty and integrity but also the values of a community that believes in peace and democracy”.

The six Leopards for Ukraine are 2A4 models stored for a decade in a military base. All of them underwent a thorough refurbishment process to make them fully operational again, and another four of the same model are underway.

Robles highlighted that Spain would limit the delivery to 10 tanks since sending more would require a major economic effort for the government and the army.

The decision to send Leopard tanks was controversial, as governing coalition partner Podemos (The Left) opposed leading party PSOE (S&D) during the negotiations.

“It is time to lead the diplomatic way“, Podemos’ Secretary General and Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra said, warning of “unforeseeable” consequences of the Leopard tanks shipment.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)