Ukraine has been receiving Soviet-era tanks from the Czech Republic, marking an escalation in NATO military aid for the Ukrainians, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Czech Deputy Defense Minister Tomáš Kopečný said that so far, the Czech Republic has sent more than a dozen modernized, Soviet-designed T-72M tanks. The Czechs have also given Ukraine howitzer artillery pieces and BMP-1 amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicles.
The revelation came after a US official told The New York Times on Friday that Washington plans to work with its NATO allies to send Soviet-made tanks into Ukraine. The US has said it will replenish the arms its NATO allies are sending into Ukraine, which will be a boon for US weapons makers.
The Journal also reported that the Czech Republic and Slovakia are considering opening their military-industrial facilities to repair Ukrainian military equipment. “If the war is going to get longer and longer, the war equipment that is being damaged needs to get serviced,” a Czech Defense Ministry official said. “Ukrainian repair houses are 100% busy, and they are asking other nearby allies to help them with repairs.”
Repairing military equipment for the Ukrainians could risk provoking Russia. Moscow has warned it considers weapons deliveries that are entering Ukraine a “legitimate” target. Since Russia invaded on February 24, the US and its NATO allies have been pouring weapons into Ukraine, mainly through Poland.
The Biden administration has pledged over $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine since the invasion started. The latest $300 million package includes 10 switchblade drones armed with tank-busting warheads. A previous $800 million weapons package included a smaller version of the switchblade drone that is designed to target infantry and light vehicles.