With the dispatch of Challenger 2 tanks, the United Kingdom becomes the first western country to promise the dispatch of heavy assault tanks to help Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. Poland, France and the United States have already promised to send lighter armor to kyiv.
Armed support from Western allies is growing in Ukraine. During an interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed on Saturday January 14 the dispatch of “Challenger 2” tanks to Ukraine, without specifying the exact number.
Several British media including the BBC and Sky news put the figure at around a dozen units. Rishi Sunak affirmed “the UK’s willingness to step up its support for Ukraine”, specifying that additional artillery support must also be sent to Ukrainian troops.
The Challenger 2 is the main tank of the British army. Initially designed to face Russian armored vehicles, it was put into service in 1998 and was notably used during the war in Iraq from 2003. Capable of exceeding 50 km/h, it can contain up to 4 soldiers and carries a 120mm cannon and two 7.2mm machine guns.
“Legitimate Targets” For Moscow
In response to this announcement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed to the BBC that as with the announcement of the delivery of AMX10 armored vehicles by France, “weapons supplies are targets legitimate for Russian strikes”.
“The sending of tanks will in no way hasten the end of military hostilities, but will only intensify them, causing new victims,” the Russian Embassy in London said in a statement, adding that it was “unlikely” that these tanks would help the Ukrainian army “turn the situation on the battlefield”.
During an interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stressed “the UK’s willingness to step up its support to Ukraine, including by providing Challenger 2 tanks and artillery systems extra,” Downing Street said.
The announcement of this delivery was described as a “game changer” by General Jérôme Pellistrandi on BFMTV, describing these tanks as “extremely efficient”. “Today it is Germany that is under pressure, because it also has heavy tanks,” he added. “Poland and Finland await agreement from Berlin to deliver their German-made tanks”.
Since the start of the Russian invasion almost a year ago, kyiv’s European allies have already delivered nearly 300 modernized Soviet tanks, but never yet Western-built heavy tanks, despite repeated requests from the Ukraine. The British announcement comes after Poland said it was ready on Wednesday to deliver 14 Leopard 2 heavy tanks, a German tank model considered one of the most powerful in the world.
Last week, France, Germany and the United States had promised to send armored vehicles carrying infantry or reconnaissance tanks – 40 German Marders, 50 American Bradleys and French AMX-10 RCs. New announcements could come on January 20, during the next meeting of Ukraine’s allies in Ramstein (Germany).
This article is originally published on bfmtv.com