France agrees to send light tanks to Ukraine

Nato allies deliver increasingly sophisticated weapons while worrying about escalating the conflict

The AMX-10 RC tank, which has been in service since the 1980s, is light and has six wheels, rather than running on tracks. AFP
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Light tanks made in France will be sent to Ukraine to help push back Russian forces, the French presidency said on Wednesday.

The move to supply Kyiv with the AMX-10 RC, a light tank that is being phased out in the French army, represents a shift in the country's military support for Ukraine.

“It is the first time that western-designed tanks are supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces,” an aide to France's President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday.

Mr Macron’s office announced the agreement after he spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr Zelenskyy thanked France “for the decision to transfer light tanks” to Ukraine, along with Bastion armoured personnel carriers.

“Thank you, friend! Your leadership brings our victory closer,” he tweeted.

France has already delivered modern artillery, armoured personnel carriers, anti-aircraft missiles and air-defence systems to Ukraine.

Nato allies have gradually increased military support to Ukraine since February last year, delivering increasingly sophisticated weapons systems while publicly worrying about the risk of escalating the conflict.

It was not immediately clear how many of the French tanks would be sent or when, although training and maintenance is part of the deal.

The French Defence Ministry said the countries' ministers would soon hold talks.

The AMX-10 RC tanks, which have been in service since the 1980s, are light and six-wheeled, rather than on tracks.

They were designed for reconnaissance missions and have been used in France's most recent overseas military operations in the Sahel region of West Africa, and in Afghanistan.

They are “very mobile … perhaps old but high-performance”, a French official said.

A presidential aide said the French-made Crotale air defence system was already in action in Ukraine, helping to guard against drones and missiles.

“These systems have arrived and are being used by the Ukrainians and are well received,” the aide said.

Mr Macron has hardened his speech against Russia in recent weeks, and accused President Vladimir Putin of committing war crimes through his “cowardly” and “cynical” attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.

In his New Year's Eve message, the French leader addressed Ukrainians, saying: “We will help you until victory and we will build a fair and durable peace. Count on France and count on Europe.”

In June he said “we must not humiliate Russia”, and in December he called for Moscow to be offered “security guarantees” at the end of the conflict.

Updated: January 04, 2023, 9:15 PM