Trudeau mum on sending tanks to Ukraine as Poland pushes ahead

As Canada's allies pledge tanks for Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave no indication Monday morning on whether Ottawa will follow suit. Trudeau is reflected in a glass door as he addresses media after touring Xanadu Quantum Technologies in Toronto, Monday, Jan.23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

OTTAWA - Canada's allies are pledging to send tanks to Ukraine, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave no indication Monday morning about whether Ottawa will follow suit.

Nearly a year after Russia's invasion, most members of the NATO military alliance have said they're in favour of giving Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, but Germany has not.

As a major supplier of the tanks, Germany requires that allies seek permission before re-exporting them to other countries, and Berlin has warned against provoking Russia.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday his government would soon make that formal request, and it plans to send tanks even if Germany doesn't approve.

At a news conference Monday morning, Trudeau said Canada is in "regular conversations with Ukrainian leadership" about the country's military needs, but he has "nothing to announce" yet.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said later Monday that she had spoken to her German counterpart about the issue. But she was evasive on whether Ottawa is seeking permission to send tanks.

"To arrive at a lasting peace, we must continue to arm Ukraine. It's a bit of a paradox that we're in, but it's really the approach we're taking and that our allies are taking as well," Joly told reporters in French, on the sidelines of a cabinet retreat in Hamilton, Ont.

"There's still a lot to do, and for sure we will be doing more. That's what I can tell you right now," she said in English.

The Canadian Army has 112 Leopard 2 tanks.

Canada purchased them from Germany in 2007, during the height of the war in Afghanistan, and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has called on Canada to supply some of them.

But some analysts say Ottawa would only be able to provide an inconsequential number without undermining its own training and operational needs.

Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, Yuliya Kovaliv, was unavailable for an interview Monday.

The Ukrainian government led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly said it needs tanks to protect its troops and launch counter-offensives against Russian forces, particularly in the eastern part of the country.

On Monday, Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said that Ukraine needs "several hundred" tanks, instead of the dozens that NATO countries have discussed deploying.

"Every tank capable of fighting must be on our front," Yermak posted in Ukrainian on the social media site Telegram.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.

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