Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides says weapons deals were being kept on the down low in response to rumors that Nicosia was seeking German Leopards in exchange for Russian tanks to Kiev, while clarifying his country won’t be stuck with military equipment of the past.
Petrides was a guest on state radio Wednesday morning when he was asked about rumors that the Republic of Cyprus was seeking German Leopard tanks from Greece in exchange for providing Soviet-made T-80U tanks to Ukraine.
The defense minister declined to confirm or deny the rumors but clarified that the National Guard was sticking to its current plans with a number of programs aimed at modernizing military equipment.
“Besides maintenance for 2-3 years, we are also looking to upgrade equipment of the National Guard,” Petrides said, adding that both money and time would be needed before new equipment could arrive.
'Besides maintenance for 2-3 years, we are also looking to upgrade equipment of the National Guard' Petrides said, adding both money and time would be needed before new equipment could arrive
“We cannot remain with military equipment of the past,” Petrides added.
The comments came after a reluctant Berlin, which had concerns over a possible escalation, was rumored to have caved in to Polish pressure and finally agreed to supply Kiev with Leopard 2 battle tanks, according to media reports.
Reports also suggested Berlin agreed to provide battle tanks to Ukraine after US officials told media that Washington was no longer against the idea of initiating a process that would eventually send dozens of M1 Abrams tanks to Kiev.
But the deal could be easier said than done, as some European countries with German Leopards were still waiting on the official go-ahead from Berlin while Warsaw said it would not wait.
Petrides said moving military equipment around was a difficult task due to the war in Ukraine as well as other retractions.
“The Republic of Cyprus must show willingness,” Petrides said, while clarifying that any decisions on Russian equipment in the Greek Cypriot army could be made in one or two years.
Petrides said Cyprus had military and cooperation agreements with over 17 countries, including the United States, adding that the government would stick to current plans aimed at modernizing the Cypriot army’s capabilities.
Russia accuses US of carrying out proxy war
Moscow says countries supplying Kiev with more tanks would not change matters.
Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, accused Washington of carrying out a “proxy-war” and further described the decision for M1 Abrams as "another blatant provocation" against Russia.
"If a decision to transfer to Kiev M1 Abrams is made, American tanks without any doubt will be destroyed as all other samples of NATO military equipment," Antonov said.
Last year Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades clarified that his country would not send weapons directly to Ukraine, but the commander-in-chief did not rule out swap deals through third countries that were willing to replace Russian-made systems with modern armaments.