Western deliveries of NATO-standard Leopard tanks are not fit for purpose in Ukraine, Russian state media has reported, as the military vehicles head towards the battlefield.
One report, cited in the Russian Pravda outlet, said the donated tanks had not undergone thorough inspections. It added that many of the tanks had been “kept unused at warehouses for years” or been hastily repaired before delivery to Ukraine. Newsweek could not independently verify this, and has emailed the German and Ukrainian defense ministries for comment.
Kyiv made repeated calls for Western-made main battle tanks, such as the German-made Leopards, ahead of Ukraine’s backers consenting to the deliveries in January 2023. For Ukrainian military stocks, filled with Soviet-era tanks, these NATO-standard weapons represented a significant upgrade in capabilities. Several countries, including Canada, Poland and Portugal, have donated Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
However, some of the promised tanks came from storage, with questions arising about how battle-ready some of the committed vehicles would be. Ahead of Berlin committing Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the head of German military manufacturer Rheinmetall told German newspaper Bild that stocks of Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks “must be completely dismantled and rebuilt.”
The Russian report did not specify which type of Leopard tank has allegedly fallen short of Kyiv’s requirements.
The Pravda report cited an anonymous Telegram channel, known as “Resident,” which claims to publish insider knowledge from both Ukrainian and Russian sources. An unnamed source told the account’s administrators that Ukraine’s top soldier, Valery Zaluzhny, informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that “several Leopard tanks failed on their first run-in, and the supplied artillery shells are of poor quality.”
Newsweek could not independently verify this, and the account has been denounced as Kremlin-backed by Ukraine.
“It has been known that the Leopards [2A4s] have had issues and do not perform as advertised,” according to Marina Miron, post-doctoral researcher at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, U.K.
“That said, we don’t know which modifications have been made before delivery to the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” she told Newsweek, suggesting that the 2A6 models may be “more robust.”
“All in all, we should take the Russian article with a grain of salt,” Miron said. “This is not complete disinformation; however, the Russians are skilled at weaving some facts into their disinformation to make it more credible.”
Describing the Russian Pravda report as “very vague” about the alleged issues with the Leopards, “it cannot be excluded that this is completely invented,” she added.
In late 2022, a senior German military official reportedly said “the question of the vehicles’ readiness has become a game of lottery.” Reports have surfaced in recent days claiming that a Leopard tank turret, operated by training Ukrainian tankers in Poland, became detached from the chassis.
In late February, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia that some of the promised Leopard 2A4s had been stored in poor conditions in a military facility in Zaragoza, northeastern Spain. They therefore needed restoration, Robles said.
In early April, she said that Madrid’s shipment of six Leopard 2 tanks would be sent to Ukraine in the second half of the month. Four more were expected to follow after repairs. The shipment was initially expected on April 9.
“The trend across the board in European armies has been cutting, cutting, cutting,” according to Christian Mölling, a defense expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “But, at the end of the day, many were on the same track as Germany: War is a theoretical thing,” he told The New York Times in late February. “So we have theoretical tanks.”
“There are a lot of old Leopard 2s in European arsenals,” Forbes wrote in early February. “But most of them are decades-old, and some are in bad repair.”
In late March, Berlin confirmed that its donated 18 Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks had arrived in Ukraine. “I am sure that they can do something important at the front,” German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius said at the time.
British Challenger 2 main battle tanks have also made it to Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov, Kyiv’s defense minister, confirmed last month. Leopard tanks donated by Poland were delivered to Ukraine in late February, Warsaw said.
However, Ukraine has also been promised batches of the earlier Leopard 1 tanks. The Danish defense ministry said on March 11 that these would arrive in Ukraine in the spring. Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands committed to refurbishing at least 100 Leopard 1s, which are no longer in use by the German armed forces.
Ukraine is expected to use the Western-supplied battle tanks for an upcoming spring counteroffensive. However, Kyiv has been tight-lipped in recent weeks about any details relating to Ukraine’s military plans.
In late March, Reznikov said the tanks will be deployed in a “counterattack, according to the decision of our General Staff.” But this will depend on “the most suitable moment,” he added.
“Western deliveries of NATO-standard Leopard tanks are not fit for purpose in Ukraine, Russian state media has reported, as the military vehicles head towards the battlefield.”
This statement comes from a country that lost more tanks in a year than a large part of the world’s nations have in their arsenals … combined!
At any rate, one can imagine that the Ukrainians will make sure that each and every Leopard will be fit for duty when the time comes to make the cockroaches run.
The Ruzis know what they are talking about with all the antique junk they are reactivating. One Lepoard 1 is worth a hundred T54/55’s
I am completely disgusted with almost all media outlets.
Why I’m the world would Newsweek print thisobvious propaganda?
They have sacrificed the golden rule of journalism which is the clear unbiased reporting of facts.
Preferring instead to embrace sensationalism, ratings and political agendas both left and right.
We have come to an age where one cannot use the media to form an informed opinion on anything.
I believe that this is one of the biggest threats to democracy.
You’re right Sir Stanley, I’m old enough to remember when you had to have not ONE, not TWO but three named sources before you even wrote a report. Now it is browse through Twitter and see what bert says and call it an article…
“…report cited an anonymous Telegram channel, known as “Resident,” which claims to publish insider knowledge from both Ukrainian and Russian sources.”
Yeah, and I claim to have 7 vintage Corvettes in my 7-car garage on Miami beach.
I fully agree. The source of the article is very fragile and very dubious. Although, this does reflect the general mood in mafia land, in my opinion. They have been talking themselves into being able to virtually slaughter Western tanks, like they have been “slaughtering” HIMARS.