BERLIN (Reuters) – German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall could not deliver repaired Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine until 2024 at the earliest, the chief executive said in the Bild newspaper on Sunday.
Germany announced earlier this month that it would supply Ukraine with Marder infantry fighting vehicles to repel Russian troops. But Kiev has also asked for heavier vehicles, such as the Leopards, which would represent a significant step forward in Western aid to Ukraine.
Repairing the tanks it has in stock would cost several hundred million euros and the company could not begin doing so until the order was confirmed, Papperger told Bild.
“The vehicles must be completely disassembled and rebuilt,” he added.
Germany has become one of Ukraine’s leading military supporters in response to last year’s Russian invasion, overcoming a taboo rooted in the bloody 20th century history of sending weapons to conflict zones.
Still, critics say German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his ruling SPD are too slow, waiting for allies to act first rather than shoulder Germany’s responsibility as the closest Western power to Ukraine.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said earlier this month that the delivery of the heavier Leopard tanks could not be “ruled out”.
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; editing by Frances Kerry)