Czechs to get German tanks, will look to buy more

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Leopard 2A4 tanks from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, C Squadron travel in the Wainwright Garrison training area during Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE in Wainwright, Alberta, Canada on May 15, 2017. JF Lauzé/Courtesy Canadian Armed Forces via REUTERS

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PRAGUE, May 18 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic will receive 15 Leopard 2A4 tanks donated by Germany as it supplies its own Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine following Russia's invasion in February, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The Czechs will also start talks with Germany on acquiring up to another 50 more-modern Leopard 2A7+ tanks in coming years.

The donated tanks could arrive this year.

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"Germany has been our key economic partner for a long time. However, not in defence, and we want to change that, not only regarding tanks, but in a bilateral cooperation in general," Defence Minister Jana Cernochova said.

"I believe that our army will be stronger and our country safer thanks to that," she said.

The Czechs have 30 modernised T-72M4CZ tanks assigned to its tank unit and several dozen more in storage that have not been modernised.

The country has already sent some of its non-modernised tanks to Ukraine after Russia's invasion began on Feb. 24.

The Czechs have also sent more heavy equipment to Ukraine, from army depots and private arms companies, including artillery, fighting vehicles, anti-aircraft equipment and multiple rocket launchers.

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Reporting by Robert Muller; writing by Jason Hovet; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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