German Leopard 2 tank fires during their largest live firing exercise on Sennelager Ranges in Germany 150321 CREDIT BFBS.jpeg
A German Leopard 2 tank firing during live-firing exercise on Sennelager Ranges in Germany.
Land vehicles

Poland requests German permission to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine

German Leopard 2 tank fires during their largest live firing exercise on Sennelager Ranges in Germany 150321 CREDIT BFBS.jpeg
A German Leopard 2 tank firing during live-firing exercise on Sennelager Ranges in Germany.

Poland will ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said.

Mr Morawiecki did not specify when the request will be made, saying that Poland is building a coalition of nations ready to send Leopards.

The German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks are widely regarded as the best of their kind in the world, and even if there is no permission from Germany, Warsaw will take its own decisions, the Polish prime minister said, without elaborating.

This statement follows the news that the leaders of dozens of major Commons committees also asked Germany's defence minister to allow Ukraine to defend itself against Russia's invasion using the Leopard tanks.

'If we were asked, we would not stand in the way'

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock had told French TV channel LCI on Sunday that Poland has not formally asked for Berlin's approval to share some of its German-made Leopards, but added "if we were asked, we would not stand in the way".

Regarding Ms Baerbock's comments, Mr Morawiecki said that "exerting pressure makes sense" and that her words are a "spark of hope" that Germany may even take part in the coalition.

In a news conference in the western city of Poznan, Mr Morawiecki said Ms Baerbock "sent a different message that offers a spark of hope that not only Germany will no longer block, but maybe finally will offer heavy, modern equipment in support of Ukraine".

He added: "We are constantly exerting pressure on the government in Berlin to make its Leopards available."

According to Mr Morawiecki, Germany has "more than 350 active Leopards and about 200 in storage".

Watch: All you need to know about the Leopard 2 tank.

The Ukrainian government says that tanks, and especially the German-made Leopards, are vital if it is to prevail over the Kremlin's invading forces.

Combining speed and accuracy, the Leopard, equipped with its 120mm Smoothbore Cannon, is capable of hitting targets 5km away while on the move.

Ms Baerbock made positive comments about the possibility of sending tanks to Ukraine.

German officials "know how important these tanks are" and "this is why we are discussing this now with our partners," Ms Baerbock said in interview clips posted by LCI.

Ukraine's supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.

Germany is one of the main donors of weapons to Ukraine, and it ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stocks in preparation for a possible green light.

However, the government in Berlin has shown caution at each step of increasing its military aid to Ukraine.

Germany's tentativeness has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on Nato's eastern flank that feel especially threatened by Russia's renewed aggression.

Russia's response

Moscow, in response to the pledges of sophisticated Western weapons for Kyiv's military, has stepped up its warnings that escalation risks catastrophe.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov reaffirmed Moscow's claim that the Western supplies could lead to "unpredictable" consequences.

"We have said on numerous occasions that escalation is the most dangerous path, and the consequences may be unpredictable," Mr Ryabkov said.

"Our signals are not listened to, and Russia's adversaries keep raising the stakes."

With both sides' battlefield positions mostly deadlocked during the winter months, the Kremlin's forces have kept up their bombardments of Ukrainian areas.

Kharkiv governor Oleh Synyehubov said that Russian forces shelled several towns and villages in the north-eastern region over the previous 24 hours, killing a 67-year-old woman and leaving another resident wounded.