Finland’s president on Tuesday suggested the Nordic nation could offer its training capabilities to prospective tank units as European countries mull supplying Ukraine with powerful Leopard tanks.
“We are the few countries in Europe which still have conscripts. That means our training system is very developed,” Sauli Niinisto said in a press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, during a surprise visit to Kyiv.
“They take in every year newcomers, train them and we have very experienced training and premises for trainees,” he added.
Pressure has been mounting on Germany from European allies to authorize exports of its Leopard tanks, which are used by several armed forces around the world, including Finland.
Niinisto emphasized that the ongoing discussion was not just about individual tanks but about a “greater unit” and “how to build it up.”
“I can just promise that we are constructive in that unit,” he said.
The president said there were “different possibilities” for how Finland could play a role in that support.
Zelensky meanwhile said the two discussed “creating a separate platform to strengthen Ukraine with armoured vehicles, including tanks.”
“I am very happy that Finland will take its relevant place there,” he said.
Niinisto said the question of whether Finland would supply some of its own Leopard tanks to Ukraine was still “open,” as the Nordic country has to consider the issue “carefully” due to its long border with Russia.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said last week he hoped “that this decision (to deliver Leopards) will be made real, and Finland is definitely ready to play its part in that support.”
Germany on Tuesday said allies could start training Ukrainian forces to use the Leopard battle tanks, stopping short of granting permission for them to be sent to Ukraine.
Germany underscored that the pending decision was imminent.
Finland’s defense ministry announced Friday a 400-million-euro ($437-million) military aid package to Ukraine, its largest to date and including heavy artillery as well as munitions.