Berlin scraps plans for joint tank repair hub in Poland, opts for Germany
PHOTO CAPTION: A Polish army instructor stands with Polish soldiers in front of a Leopard 2A5 in Swietoszow, Poland January 31, 2023. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki
By Sabine Siebold
BERLIN (Reuters) -Berlin on Wednesday scrapped plans for a joint tank maintenance hub in Poland after arduous talks failed, saying modern Leopard 2 tanks damaged in the Ukraine war will be repaired in Germany.
"Leopard 2A5 and Leopard 2A6 tanks will be repaired in Germany and likely in Lithuania," said a German defence ministry spokesperson.
Originally, Berlin and Warsaw had aimed to establish a joint maintenance hub in Poland to reduce the distance the tanks have to be shipped, but the talks dragged on for months amid accusations the prices demanded for the repairs in Poland were far higher than the usual rates.
Berlin has supplied around 20 Leopard 2A6 tanks to Kyiv, while Poland delivered the older Leopard 2A4 tanks.
During a visit to Poland on July 3, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius had put pressure on those involved in the talks, saying they must conclude within 10 days so Berlin could decide "in what direction to plan".
This was seen by some as a veiled threat that the hub could be established somewhere other than Poland.
German and Polish companies were involved in the negotiations, as well as both countries' governments, and the main problems were seen on the companies' side.
The Polish defence ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Poland and Germany aim to coordinate the maintenance of Leopard 2 tanks, said the ministry spokesperson in Berlin on Wednesday, without mentioning the original idea of the establishment of a joint hub for this purpose.
The spokesperson said the maintenance of the modern tanks could start immediately, as soon as needed by Ukraine.
"Talks on how Leopard 2A4 tanks can be serviced are ongoing," the spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold,Writing by Rachel More and Miranda Murray, Editing by Friederike Heine, Angus MacSwan and Devika Syamnath)