Portugal’s PM suggests they’ll be on their way by end March
After a degree of confusion over whether or not Portugal will be sending any of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine – in line with other allies – prime minister António Costa has confirmed that yes, the country will most definitely be sending tanks as requested by Kiev.
The PM was talking to Lusa news agency today, following yesterday’s visit to the Portuguese military mission in the Central African Republic.
He stressed that sending tanks to Ukraine will not jeopardise national military capacity in terms of equipment (which had been previously suggested)
“We are currently working to be able to have conditions to dispense some of our tanks”, he said, adding that he knows how many will be sent to Ukraine, but this “will be announced at the proper time.”
Foreign affairs minister João Gomes Cravinho has intimated that Portugal will be sending Leopard 2 tanks (the country has a total of 37, albeit not all being operational). This was later ‘discounted’ by defence minister Helena Carreiras.
Today, the prime minister explains that, at the moment, Portugal is working with Germany to enable a logistical operation to supply parts, with a view to completing the recovery of some of the tanks that are not operational.
It is “an operation that is intended to cede to Ukraine some tanks, without, of course, Portugal leaving its military capacity intact”, he added.
Asked about the “most likely time when these Leopard 2 tanks could be sent to Ukrainian territory, António Costa noted that the movement that is underway in Europe is towards having all these means available by the end of March“.
He admitted that right now “some are not operational and, for this very reason, we have to work simultaneously with those who produce them to ensure the necessary supply chain, in order to recover tanks that we currently have inoperable and to be able to dispense operational tanks, leaving us with our own capacity duly safeguarded. That is the logistical operation that is underway,” he repeated.
Still on the issue of the tanks’ state of inoperability, António Costa made the following observation, says Lusa: “It is not only in automobile parts that there is a lack of components”.
“Also for military equipment there has been a lack of components. This logistical operation is underway and we have been working very closely with Germany. In due course, we will be able to make our contribution to this collective effort to provide Ukraine with better means for its defence,” he assured
Mr Costa also revealed that in the coming months an air police mission will fly to Lithuania.
“This situation is allowing greater involvement. For example, Romania is sending forces to participate in the Minusca operation in the Central African Republic. It is not exactly a quid pro quo, but it is also in the framework of the cooperation we have developed with Romania,” he said.
Like so many other western countries, Portugal’s bilateral cooperation with Ukraine has been on multiple fronts: involving also the sending of humanitarian material and humanitarian aid, as well as welcoming many thousands of refugees
“We have also given emergency support to the Ukrainian budget and there are ongoing programmes with the Ukrainian government to rebuild schools in a province”, added the PM. “We also have the effort which resulted from the repositioning of military forces within the NATO framework and which had the effect of reinforcing the eastern flank where Portugal now has a reinforced presence in Romania,” he concluded.