Ukrainian soldiers, who arrived at a Polish military base straight from the frontline, on Monday praised the Leopard battle tanks whose ins and outs they have been learning under the watchful eye of allied instructors.
“As of today, I can say that the machine is very high quality, very good,” Ukrainian army major Vadym Khodak told reporters attending the training showcase in the southwestern village of Swietoszow.
“And what I like is that our soldiers like it very much,” he added of the 105 Ukrainian troops who have been learning from Polish, Canadian, and Norwegian instructors.
Germany recently gave the green light for the modern German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine after a tireless campaign by Kyiv and other countries.
Last week, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin and its allies aim to deliver a first battalion of tanks by April, and others would follow later this year and next.
‘Experienced Tank Drivers’
Khodak said the tanks would be “a great support for our army.”
“And I hope that when we come to the frontline with this equipment, it will save a lot of lives of our soldiers and bring us closer to victory,” he added.
Attending the showcase in Swietoszow, Polish President Andrzej Duda hailed the Ukrainian troops who have been battling Russia’s invasion for the past year.
“These are very experienced tank drivers, who arrived here straight from the front” in Ukraine, he said.
“Just by looking at their faces, you can see that these men have lived through horrible things but are absolutely determined to defend their homeland,” Duda added.
Some of the soldiers climbed aboard their future tanks during the demonstration, though up to now they have been practicing on simulators and learning theory.
Twelve Hours a Day
The training normally lasts two months but Ukraine’s troops are getting a more intensive version — the same content and number of hours but in just one month.
They train “around 10 to 12 hours a day, from Monday to Saturday,” Polish instructor Krzysztof Sieradzki told reporters.
He said 21 four-man teams are attending the current training. Add to that technical personnel and you get a total of 105 soldiers getting acquainted with the tanks provided by Poland and Canada.
“The Ukrainian soldiers are dazzled by the simplicity of the build and the ergonomics of the crew compartments,” Sieradzki said.
“There’s no need for us to motivate them. If anything, we have to put the brakes on their enthusiasm,” he added.
The major challenge ahead is to locate spare parts for the tanks, according to Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.
He said he hopes to bring up the issue with Pistorius at talks in Brussels on Tuesday.