Ukrainian troops will begin training with the Leopard tanks from Monday, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced.
Speaking to reporters during a news conference in Kyiv, he said: “We are accumulating reserves and working on training more personnel, getting the Western weapons.”
Reznikov also warned of an upcoming Russian offensive. “We expect an offensive. It’s February, and Russians love symbolism. We expect this pressure from them, and we are ready,” he said.
But tanks are not the only weapons Ukraine needs to defend itself from enemy bombardment. According to Reznikov, it needs long-range weapons reaching 150 kilometers that must be “more effective and active.” The maximum range of the current artillery provided by the West is 144 km.
On Thursday, US officials said the US was expected to announce a new Ukraine security package worth approximately $2.2 billion that will include longer-range missiles in a first for the country.
But these will not reach the distance Ukraine is asking for out of fear longer-ranging weapons — like the sought after ATACMS missile — will be used to hit targets in Russia, which Reznikov refuted.
“I want to emphasize that we promise our partners not to use long-range systems to hit targets on Russian territory, only on the Ukrainian territory which Russians occupied,” he assured.
Speaking of the military aid Ukraine has received, Reznikov said they had been given “almost everything” in terms of weapons except for fighter jets, which he is certain they will get.
Ukraine is not a NATO member, but in this war has become a “NATO country de facto,” he said, receiving weapons, standards and digital systems. “The only thing left to do is to be accepted in the alliance de jure,” Reznikov added.