German firm in talks to build tank plant in Ukraine

Arms manufacturer Rheinmetall is holding "promising" talks to build a tank factory in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, the head of the Germany company said in an interview published Saturday.

German firm in talks to build tank plant in Ukraine
A KF51 tank from German weapon manufacturer Rheinmetall. Photo: Emmanuel DUNAND/AFP

“A Rheinmetall factory could be built in Ukraine at a cost of about 200 million euros,” ($213 million) to turn out up to 400 Panther tanks a year, the firm’s president Armin Papperger told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

He added that he expected a decision on the plan in two months, saying such a site could be protected from Russian attack by an air defence system.

Ukraine wants between 600 and 800 tanks to drive Russian troops out of the country, and it wants them quickly.

“Even if Germany offered the Bundeswehr’s 300 Leopard 2 tanks, it would be nowhere near enough,” he said, referring to the German army.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz came under fire for delaying a decision on supplying Ukraine with German Leopard assault tanks before agreeing at the end of January.

Berlin has agreed to supply 18 Leopard 2 A6s from the Bundeswehr and approved the re-export of German-made Leopards to Ukraine from other states, including Sweden, Finland, Portugal and Poland.

The plan would see more than 30 Leopards shipped to Kyiv.

Rheinmetall is also working to line up nearly 250 tanks, many going to the Czech Republic and Slovakia to replace Russian-made armoured vehicles, as well as to theĀ  Bundeswehr and Ukraine, said Papperger.

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Ukraine asks Germany for air-to-surface missiles: defence ministry

Ukraine has asked Berlin to provide it with Taurus air-to-surface missiles that have a range of in excess of 500 kilometres, Germany's defence ministry told AFP on Saturday.

Ukraine asks Germany for air-to-surface missiles: defence ministry

“We have a received a request from the Ukrainian side in recent days,” a ministry spokesman said, without providing further details.

The request comes as Ukraine prepares to launch a counteroffensive in an effort to wrestle back territory seized by Russia since Moscow invaded its neighbour in February 2022, sparking the biggest conflict on European soil since World War II.

The missiles, produced by a Germany-Swedish joint venture Taurus Systems, would allow Ukraine to strike well inside Russia with their range of more than 500 kilometres (310 miles).

READ ALSO: Germany say US must decide on jets for Ukraine

The United States and other Western countries providing arms to Ukraine have up to now been cautious on giving Kyiv weapons that could reach inside nuclear-armed Russia, potentially widening the conflict.

Previously seen as reticent on supplying weapons, Germany has become the second-biggest contributor of military assistance to Ukraine after the United States.

READ ALSO: Germany unveils 2.7 bn euro weapons package for Ukraine

It is currently preparing its biggest-yet military aid package, including anti-missile systems, 30 additional Leopard 1 tanks, more than 100 armoured combat vehicles and more than 200 surveillance drones.

But it has so far been cautious on the issue of fighter jets and air-to-surface missiles.