The Czech Republic is sending tanks and infantry vehicles to Ukraine at a tender under the radar to strengthen the Eastern European country’s ability to repel Russian attacks.
The distributions are the first time a foreign country has reportedly supplied tanks to Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has repeatedly appealed for Western military support against Russian aggression.
Czech officials say the country has been supplying Ukraine with equipment for several weeks, including Soviet-designed T-72 tanks, infantry warships, armored personnel carriers and howitzers.
“We believe that this is the only thing that can deter Russian forces from further atrocities,” said a senior Czech defense official.
Five T-72 tanks and five infantry fighting vehicles were sent in the most recent shipment, which came to light after posting pictures on social media.
A second Czech official said the country was in preliminary talks on providing other forms of assistance, including assistance to supply Ukrainian heavy land-force equipment to the Czech Republic’s facilities.
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After more than a month of fighting, Ukraine’s armed forces have largely been able to repel Russian attacks and prevent the invading forces from capturing the capital, Kyiv.
In recent days, Russia has withdrawn its forces from the vicinity of Kiev. However, Ukrainian officials have warned that Moscow is re-focusing its offensive activities in the Donbass region, the second city Kharkiv and other eastern regions. They have reiterated their call for more Western military assistance.
Many NATO countries have provided defense equipment to Ukraine. However, they are increasingly afraid to send offensive weapons.
“NATO has no pressure[to supply weapons]. . . This is really an example of the sovereign decision of a sovereign state, “said Julian Smith, the US envoy to NATO, when asked about the Czech move on Tuesday, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Prior to the collapse of the USSR, Czechoslovakia was an important part of the defense industry in the Eastern Bloc, providing it with skills that were later able to play a role in supplying equipment to Ukraine.
According to a London-based think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Czech military has 30 T-72M4CZ tanks, an upgraded version of the Russian Workhorse T-72, and an additional 89 T-72 tanks in storage. The beginning of the year.
Ukraine’s armed forces also have the ability to refit and repair the type of Soviet-era military equipment used. “The Czechs have created a small industry of refitting and modernizing Soviet-era weapons,” said Henry Boyd, a military analyst at IISS.
A spokesman for the Czech Defense Ministry said the country had been sending military equipment to Ukraine since the start of the war but declined to comment on the content “due to operational security”.
“We are constantly trying to find more suitable equipment to continue military assistance,” the spokesman said.
Additional report by Henry Faye in Brussels