Germany says open to sending Ukraine heavy weapons

TALLINN, April 21 (Reuters) - Germany is looking into what additional maintenance and ammunition will be needed for its stock of ageing Marder armoured infantry-fighting vehicles in order for Ukraine to use them, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

On the second day of a tour of Baltic states, Baerbock addressed criticism by allies and commentators of Germany's apparent foot-dragging on delivering the weaponry Kyiv says it needs to fend off Russian attacks. L5N2WJ3HG

"There are no taboos for us with regard to armoured vehicles and other weaponry that Ukraine needs," she told a news conference with her Estonian counterpart on Thursday.

Earlier, Bild newspaper had accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz of blocking tank deliveries.

Many analysts say Ukraine urgently needs heavy weapons to drive back a Russian invasion that has now concentrated on taking ground in the eastern Donbas region.

While Ukraine's light armaments and tactics have had some success in slowing Russia's advance, stopping and reversing that incursion will need heavy battlefield weaponry like tanks and howitzers, they say.

Russia calls its incursion a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for an illegal war of aggression. read more

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Tallinn, Estonia April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

But Baerbock said the priority was to ensure Ukraine quickly got older Soviet-designed kit that its military could use without extra training, and that it was doing this by backfilling the stocks of allied countries that had such weaponry to spare with modern German-made gear.

Germany has agreed such an exchange with Slovenia, a Berlin government source told Reuters.

According to this deal, Slovenia will supply T-72 tanks to Ukraine, the source said, while Berlin is supposed to deliver some 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and some 20 Fuchs armoured personnel carriers to Ljubljana in return.

The German armed forces themselves faced equipment shortages, she added, noting that German peacekeeping missions in Africa did not have all the helicopters they needed.

Pressed by journalists on whether Germany's Leopard tank would be sent to Ukraine, she said troops would need training to use such advanced kit, and that Berlin would pay for that training.

"We are providing 1 billion euros because we should think not just for the coming days and months, but also the next years for the systems Ukraine needs for defence now, but also for a free Ukraine in the future," she said.

"We know that every day counts."

Reporting by Alexander Ratz, Sabine Siebold and Andreas Rinke; Writing by Thomas Escritt; editing by Angus MacSwan and Bernadette Baum

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Thomson Reuters

Berlin correspondent who has investigated anti-vaxxers and COVID treatment practices, reported on refugee camps and covered warlords' trials in The Hague. Earlier, he covered Eastern Europe for the Financial Times. He speaks Hungarian, German, French and Dutch.