UPDATE 1-Finland says giving Leopard tanks to Ukraine depends on Germany

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HELSINKI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Finland’s stance on giving Leopard tanks to Ukraine depends on Germany’s lead, Finnish defence minister Mikko Savola said on Monday, adding that exporting the German-made equipment would require a permit from Germany.

“It depends very much on Germany’s lead how we act with these Leopard tanks. These require a German export permit and in addition to that, the German defence industry has a very strong role in this, in how substitutive equipment can be obtained,” Savola told Reuters.

Last Thursday, President Sauli Niinisto said Finland could donate a small number of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if a wider group of European nations also decided to do so.

Savola said the topic would be discussed later this week, possibly first at a meeting in Tallinn in which Estonia has invited “like-minded countries”, and at the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany, where U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to meet German and EU leaders on Friday.

Berlin is under pressure to quickly nominate a new defence minister ahead of Austin’s visit to replace Christine Lambrecht, who resigned from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government on Monday. (Reporting by Anne Kauranen Editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Potter)