France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has pledged to provide Ukraine with armoured combat vehicles to help in the war against Russia.
The Elysée palace declined to detail how many of its AMX-10 vehicles will be sent, nor the timing of the deliveries, but it cast the move as a sign of how Macron wanted to “amplify military aid to Ukraine”.
France will also send Bastion armoured personnel carriers that will be bought out of a €200mn fund set up by the Paris government for Ukraine to acquire military equipment.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, thanked Macron on Twitter, saying: “Your leadership brings our victory closer.”
The move signals that France, with one of the biggest defence budgets in Nato, is committed to supporting Ukraine against Russia as the war approaches its second year.
Kyiv has been pushing its allies to provide armoured vehicles, as well as battle tanks, air defence systems and longer-range missiles as it prepares for a possible renewed Russian offensive later this winter. Armoured vehicles and APCs are also critical for any counter-offensive operations Kyiv mounts later this year.
“This is the first time that tanks designed in the west will be given to the Ukrainian forces,” said the Elysée.
Although the official described the AMX-10 as a tank, it is technically an armoured vehicle that runs on wheels not tracks, and is lighter and more mobile than a tank. It was designed in the 1970s as a “tank killer” and has a powerful gun that can pierce armour as well as buildings, but it is deemed less effective against the armour of modern battle tanks.
Nonetheless, France’s decision to supply AMX-10s is a step towards providing Ukraine with tanks, something it has repeatedly requested from its western backers.
Ukraine’s allies have declined to provide Kyiv with Nato-standard battle tanks. Ukraine wants German-built Leopards, which are operated by several European countries and therefore widely available. However, Berlin has declined, fearing it could be deemed by Moscow as an escalatory move.
Zelenskyy and Macron said the two leaders had agreed to “further co-operation to significantly strengthen air defence and other defence capabilities”.
Kyiv has also been pressing France to provide its medium-range Mamba air defence systems to help protect critical infrastructure from Russian missile attacks.
France’s move comes after it had been criticised by analysts and some allies for donating less weaponry to Ukraine than other European governments. The Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which has been tracking donations to Ukraine, has France giving less material than the UK, Germany or Poland.
France refutes those figures and says it does not disclose all it has given.