Spain says it is open to sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles attends a roundtable discussion of Women Foreign and Defence Ministers from Allied countries, during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain June 29, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

MADRID, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Spain's defence minister said on Wednesday Madrid was open to providing Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks, after Germany agreed to send the tanks and said NATO allies could do the same.

Defence Minister Margarita Robles told EFE news agency that Madrid would act in coordination with its Western allies to help Ukraine fend off Russia's invasion.

"Spain is willing, within this coordination, to work with our allies to do whatever is necessary including the sending of Leopards, training in the use of these Leopards and also to help in their maintenance and upkeep," she said.

Spain has 108 2A4 tanks, according to security and defence researcher Felix Arteaga of the Elcano think-tank. The 2A4 is an older, standard model for many European countries, and Ukrainian tank crews can receive standard training on them.

About half of Spain's tanks are in its north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and 53 are mothballed at a military base in Zaragoza and would need to be refitted, Arteaga said.

A source with knowledge of the matter said Spain had already assessed the overhaul needs, that both Germany and Ukraine agreed with the cost, to be paid from a special fund, and estimated the tanks could be operative within two months.

Some are in a worse condition than the others, having been used for spare parts, the source added.

The tanks would be transported overland across Europe by flatbed trucks in a journey that would take about a week, the source said.

In late 2022, Spain delivered its largest package of defence materiel for Ukraine to date, sending to the logistics hub in Poland heavy weapons, long-range and anti-tank ammunition.

Spain has sent four U.S.-made HAWK air defence systems and has committed to sending two more. It is also offering medical treatment to wounded Ukrainian soldiers, and air defence training at its air base in Toledo.

Reporting by Belen Carreno, Emma Pinedo, writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by Aislinn Laing and Timothy Heritage

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