After France and Germany, England in turn announced its intention to send battle tanks to Ukraine. The tanks belong to the Challenger 2 category. For the first time, the West will send heavy assault tanks, marking a new milestone in the engagement of Western countries against the Russians.
The decision was announced by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday, January 14th, in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to Sunak, this gesture shows “the will of the United Kingdom to intensify its support for Ukraine.” Additional artillery shipments are also scheduled. The exact quantity of tanks dispatched was not specified by Downing Street but is reportedly 12 to 14 machines.
Until now, all battle tanks that have been delivered to Ukraine—from Poland and the Czech Republic—have been of Soviet design. The Challenger 2 is the main tank of the British army. Relatively recently manufactured, it was commissioned in 1998 and used during the war in Iraq in 2003. It is equipped with a 120 mm gun and can carry up to four men. Its ammunition is not compatible with NATO standards. Because its use and maintenance differ significantly from Soviet tanks, the Ukrainian army will need training and time to adapt to the technology. In addition, the tanks require a high level of maintenance. But, since the number of available tanks will likely be low, their effect on the ground will be limited.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the BBC in response to the announcement that, as with France’s announcement of the delivery of AMX10 armored vehicles, “weapons supplies are legitimate targets for Russian strikes.”
The Russian Embassy in London added that the sending of tanks would only intensify the military hostilities without accelerating their end.
The British announcement comes after Poland said on Wednesday, January 11th, that it was ready to deliver 14 Leopard 2 heavy tanks—a German model of assault tank considered one of the most efficient in the world. Poland is waiting for the green light from Berlin to proceed with this shipment. Finland also has Leopard 2s likely to be sent to Ukraine. The German-made tanks are scattered in 13 countries but can’t be sent to the Ukrainian front without the explicit agreement of the German government. German Vice-Chancellor Robert Hayek acknowledged the Polish right to send the tanks on Thursday, January 12th, but Olaf Scholz can still formally withdraw his consent.