Germany wants to deliver around 40 Marder vehicles to Ukraine in Q1

A Marder armoured infantry fighting vehicle of the German army Bundeswehr takes part in an exercise during a media day in Munster, Germany September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/File Photo

BERLIN/BREVIK, Norway, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Germany said on Friday it wants to deliver around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine before the end of March, and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Berlin could ultimately send its entire functioning fleet of the weapons.

Germany announced on Thursday it would provide Marders to Ukraine, ramping up military support for Kyiv to repel Russian forces. The announcement came on the same day that the United States pledged Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and a day after a similar announcement from France.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system from army stocks will also be delivered to Ukraine in the first quarter. Washington has also offered Patriots to Ukraine.

Training on the Marder vehicle is to take place in Germany and last about eight weeks, Hebestreit added.

Speaking in Brevik, Norway, Vice Chancellor Habeck said Germany should send "all Marders that are operational" to Ukraine.

Habeck did not specify how many vehicles this would be. Germany once fielded hundreds of Marders but has been phasing out the Cold War-era weapons in favour of newer Pumas which it has purchased to replace them.

Thursday's announcement came after Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced a chorus of calls from within his three-way coalition to beef up military support for Ukraine, following France's announcement it was sending AMX-10 RC combat vehicles.

Scholz has ramped up defence spending and sent aid and weapons to Ukraine since the invasion, but has sometimes hesitated before supplying powerful weapons for fear of risking direct conflict with Russia.

He has also made it clear that he did not want to go it alone on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine and that he would coordinate deliveries with other members of the NATO alliance.

Reporting by Christian Kraemer, Miranda Murray and Markus Wacket Editing by Rachel More and Peter Graff

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