Ukrainians united this week by wearing their favourite leopard print outfits in an effort to send a message to Germany – and here’s why.
Ukraine’s allies have been providing the country with weapons ever since Russia invaded in February last year, but Kyiv’s most recent request for Leopard II tanks was met with hesitation.
Although Germany U-turned on Wednesday, Berlin was reluctant to give permission for these particular tanks to be sent to Ukraine for weeks beforehand.
Leopards are all made in Germany so it had to give its explicit permission for any of the tanks to be re-exported even if they were going from other countries.
Germany’s hesitation is thought to stem from worries that it would escalate Ukraine’s war with Russia by sending such heavy armour – even though the West has been sending similar equipment for months – and it was calling for the US to send its own Abram tanks first, so it was more of a joint-action.
Ukraine was particularly keen for the Leopard II tanks because of the firepower and mobility they offer, which should help them cut through Russian defensive lines and retrieve land currently occupied by Russian forces.
The equipment is also needed sooner rather than later, because troops have to be trained on the tanks and Russia is expected to launch a heavy spring offensive soon.
Ukraine and Russia both only have stocks of Soviet-made tanks right now, with Moscow supposedly sending sub-standard tanks into battle.
So, understandably, Ukrainians took matters into their own hands – and started campaigning for the Leopards through their outfits….
It wasn’t just the Ukrainians on social media pushing Germany into action though.
Berlin came under significant pressure from other Western allies, especially when Poland suggested that it might send the Leopard II tanks it has to Ukraine even without Germany’s permission.
After the UK said it would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks this week, Berlin announced that it would send 14 of its own highly sought-after tanks, and permit other countries to send their own supplies too.
The US is also expected to announce its plan to send Abrams tanks soon.