The Czech Republic is sending Soviet-era T-72M tanks to Ukraine, providing much-needed heavy weapons to Ukrainian troops battling Russian invasion forces. This is reported by The Wall Street Journal.
These efforts, described by three Czech and Slovak officials, mark the first time a foreign state has provided tanks to Ukraine since the full-scale Russian invasion began on 24 February. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are also considering opening their own military-industrial facilities to repair and re-equip damaged Ukrainian military equipment.
Ukraine has seized 176 Russian tanks, 34 self-propelled artillery units, 116 armored fighting vehicles, 149 infantry fighting vehicles, 23 multiple rocket launchers and 45 armored personnel carriers, according to Oryx, a website that collects data on military losses from open sources and takes into account only visual evidence (photos and videos) of seized equipment. Many, if not most, of the seized equipment, as well as a large number of Ukraine’s own tanks and combat vehicles, need to be repaired before use.
Russia’s missile strike on Ukraine has targeted, in particular, the defense industry, destroying facilities where such repairs and re-equipment could take place, making Czech-Slovak co-operation particularly valuable.
Western governments initially expected Kyiv to fall within days, and equipped the Ukrainian military with mostly shoulder-fired missiles such as NLAW, Javelin and Stinger, which could be used by small insurgent units.
The Ukrainian military, however, managed to defeat Russian forces around Kyiv in a large-scale conventional war using long-range artillery, tanks and aircraft. Now Ukraine is trying to stop Russia’s advance in the east of Donbass and return the Russian-occupied territories in the south – missions that President Volodymyr Zelensky said would be impossible without a constant supply of heavy weapons.
A donors’ conference of about 35 countries, convened by Britain in London last week, agreed to provide Ukraine with long-range artillery, anti-aircraft systems and infantry fighting vehicles, but did not support the transfer of tanks.
So far, the Czech Republic has sent a little more than a dozen modernized Soviet-made T-72M tanks, said Czech Deputy Defense Minister Tomas Kopecny and another Defense Ministry spokesman. The Central European country has also sent howitzer artillery and tracked BMP-1 to Ukraine, officials said.
These weapons shipments were funded by the Czech government and private Czech donors who joined a government-supported fundraising campaign for Ukraine. Officials on NATO’s eastern flank are generally concerned that Western arms and ammunition supplies are far from meeting Ukraine’s needs, given the intensity of the war. In one day, Ukraine uses about as many weapons as it receives in a week, a senior Polish official said.