Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands will pool funds to restore at least 100 old Leopard 1 tanks from industry stocks and supply them to Ukraine, according to a joint statement published on Tuesday.
The countries said Ukraine would receive within the coming months at least 100 Leopard 1 A5 tanks as well as training, logistical support, spare parts and an ammunition package.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, on a surprise visit to Kyiv, said between 20 and 25 of the tanks would arrive by summer, about 80 by the end of the year and more than 100 in 2024, according to a statement by Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov's office after the counterparts met.
Dutch Defence Minister Kasja Ollongren said the Leopard 1 was "definitely still suitable" for combat use despite being an older model.
"It's really a tested tank," she said on Dutch national broadcaster NOS. "They're being fixed up and made battle-ready, so they will definitely be useful for the Ukrainians, and also better than a number of Russian tanks."
Details of the deal still need to be worked out with the companies that own the tanks, according to the statement.
The exact number of tanks and whether there would be cost-sharing with the companies were not immediately clear. There are some 180 Leopard 1 tanks in Germany owned by arms maker Rheinmetall and a company in northern Germany.
In total, the German government approved the export of up to 178 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.
"How many of these tanks can actually be delivered to Ukraine at the end of the day depends on the extent of the restoration work needed," the German economy and the defence ministries said in a joint statement.
Standing beside Reznikov in Kyiv, Pistorius noted he had earlier seen off Ukrainian forces departing for training in Germany on the more modern Leopard 2 tanks his country has also promised Ukraine.
Reznikov tweeted a picture of himself and Pistorius posing with a scale model Leopard in a display case, writing: "The 'first' Leopard 2 has arrived in Kyiv." The German defence ministry later tweeted that the actual Leopard 2s would be available at the end of March.
Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said their Leopard 1 initiative was open to further partners, adding Belgium had shown "initial interest to participate".
Earlier, the head of German arms maker Rheinmetall said it would send Ukraine 20-25 Leopards this year, with the rest of the 88 Leopard 1 tanks it owns in total to be sent next year.
The move follows the German government's decision last month, amid mounting international pressure, to deliver more modern Leopard 2 battle tanks from army stocks. (Reuters)