Czech Republic becomes first country to send Tanks and IFV to Ukraine

The Czech Republic’s Defense Ministry official revealed that the country has sent T-72M tanks and many other heavy weapons to Ukraine.

According to Defense Ministry officials, the Czech Republic has sent more than a dozen T-72M tanks to Ukraine. In addition, the Central European country also provided howitzers and BMP-1 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 5.

The effort marks the first time a country has supplied heavy weaponry to Ukraine since Russia launched a “special military operation” on February 24.

These weapons supplies are funded by the Czech government and private donors. Officials on NATO’s eastern flank worry Western aid isn’t enough compared to what Ukraine needs given the intensity of the conflict. In one day, Ukraine uses the same amount of weapons as it receives in a week, a senior Polish official said.

Czech officials said the country had been providing a range of equipment, including Soviet-designed T-72 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and howitzers to Ukraine for several weeks.

“We believe that this is the only thing that can stop the Russian forces from perpetrating more atrocities,” said one senior Czech defence official, adding that the tank deliveries so far had been gifts rather than sales.

Five T-72 tanks and five infantry fighting vehicles were sent in the most recent shipment, which came to light after photographs were posted on social media.

A second Czech official said the country was also in initial talks over providing other types of assistance including help in servicing Ukrainian heavy land-force equipment at facilities in the Czech Republic.

After more than a month of fighting, Ukraine’s armed forces have largely managed to repel Russia’s onslaught, and have prevented the invading force from capturing the capital Kyiv.

In recent days, Russia has withdrawn its forces from the area around Kyiv. However, Ukrainian officials have warned that Moscow is refocusing its offensive on the Donbas region, the second city Kharkiv and other areas in the east. They have reiterated calls for further western military aid.

Several Nato countries have provided Ukraine with defensive equipment. However, they have largely balked at sending offensive weapons, for fear of escalation.

“There’s no Nato pressure [to supply weapons] . . . This is really an example of a sovereign decision by a sovereign state,” Julianne Smith, the US representative to Nato, said on Tuesday when asked about the Czech move, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Before the collapse of the USSR, Czechoslovakia was an important part of the eastern bloc’s defence industry, giving it expertise that has latterly enabled it to play a role in providing equipment to Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Czech defence ministry said the country had been sending Ukraine military equipment since the start of the war but declined to comment on the contents for “operational security reasons”.

“We continually try to find more suitable equipment to continue with the military aid,” the spokesman said.

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