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Macron promises ‘first Western tanks’ for Ukraine

PARIS (AFP) – France is set to become the first Western country to deliver tanks to Ukraine, the French presidency announced on Wednesday after talks between Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The move to supply the French-made AMX-10 RC to Ukraine – a light tank model in service since the 1980s that is being phased out in the French military – represents a significant shift in French military support for Ukraine.

Paris has already delivered state-of-the-art artillery, armoured personnel carriers, anti-aircraft missiles and air-defence systems to Ukraine.

“The president wanted to increase… aid” to Ukraine “by accepting to deliver AMX-10 RC light tanks”, an aide to the French leader told reporters on condition of anonymity after the call between Macron and Zelenskyy.

“It is the first time that Western-designed tanks are supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.

An AMX-10 RC armoured vehicle. PHOTO: AFP

NATO allies have gradually ramped up their military support to Ukraine since February last year, delivering increasingly sophisticated weapons systems.

It was not immediately clear how many of the French tanks would be dispatched or when they would be delivered, though training and maintenance has been agreed as part of the deal. The French Defence Ministry said the countries’ defence ministers would soon hold talks.

The AMX-10 RC tanks are light and six-wheeled, rather than on tracks.

They were designed for reconnaissance missions and have been deployed 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.

Zelenskyy on Twitter said he thanked Macron “for the decision to transfer light tanks” to Ukraine, as well as Bastion armoured personnel carriers.

“Thank you friend! Your leadership brings our victory closer,” the Ukrainian leader added.

Macron has repeatedly riled his Ukrainian allies in the past as well as hawkish eastern European states over comments seen as focussing on diplomatic solutions to the conflict.

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