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Poland PM says he will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without German approval

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Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country will seek German approval to provide Ukraine Leopard 2 tanks but added he plans to send them even without Berlin's permission. File Photo by Andrzej Lange/EPA-EFE
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country will seek German approval to provide Ukraine Leopard 2 tanks but added he plans to send them even without Berlin's permission. File Photo by Andrzej Lange/EPA-EFE

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday he plans to seek German permission to send some of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine but added it would deliver the tanks with or without Berlin's approval.

Morawiecki said last week the country was prepared to provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, while Germany has stalled on declaring whether it will grant other nations permission to lend out the tanks.

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The release of the German-made tanks without Berlin's blessing would violate the nation's export laws, but German foreign minister Anna Baerbock opened the door to a potential transfer as she said she "would not stand in the way" of Poland's desire to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.

While not indicating a change in Germany's position to send its own tanks to Ukraine, she appeared to support wider efforts to assist Ukraine.

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"It's important that we as an international community do everything we can to defend Ukraine so that Ukraine wins and wins the right to live in peace and freedom again," Baerbock told a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday.

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Poland's foreign policy adviser, Marcin Prydacz, told Polish radio Monday that he would prefer to receive confirmation on Germany's stance on the tanks from Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Ukrainian foreign minister Andriy Melnyk said its request is not a new one. Ukraine formally asked Germany last March for an allotment of Leopard 2 tanks, seven days after the Russian invasion.

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Germany has received increasing criticism from allies for not sending the tanks to Ukraine, something specifically urged by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to push Russia out of Ukrainian territory.

"I can thank you hundreds of times and it will be absolutely just and fair, given all that we have already done -- but hundreds of 'thank you' are not hundreds of tanks," Zelensky said to a meeting of the Defense Contact group from Germany's Ramstein Air Base on Friday. "I cannot put words instead of guns that are needed against Russian artillery, or instead of the anti-aircraft missiles that are needed to protect people from Russian airstrikes, "

During that meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said no progress had been made toward gaining German approval to send the Leopard 2 tanks following negotiations with newly appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.

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Austin also said he did not have "any announcements to make" regarding the United States providing M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine has been fighting Russia with decades-old Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which cannot militarily compete with more modern tanks like the Leopard 2 or the American M1 Abrams tanks.

About 100 Ukrainian troops are being trained in the U.S. Patriot air defense system at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. It will take several months before those troops are prepared to return to the battlefield.

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