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U.S. may drop opposition to sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine – officials

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FILE PHOTO:US soldiers stand with Polish and US flags near M1/A2 Abrams tank outside a hall of 30th International Defence Industry Exhibition in Kielce, Poland September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) – The United States, in a reversal, appears to be dropping its opposition to sending M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine and an announcement could come as soon as this week, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were not aware of a final U.S. decision to send the Abrams to Ukraine, a move that could encourage Germany to follow.

The Pentagon could not be immediately reached for comment.

Such a decision by the United States would come just days after Washington argued against sending the Abrams, despite demands from Kyiv and public pressure from Berlin as it faced calls to send German-made Leopard battle tanks.

Ukraine says heavily armored Western battle tanks would give its troops more mobility and protection ahead of a new Russian offensive that Kyiv expects in the near future. They could also help Ukraine retake some of the territory that has fallen to Russia.

U.S. officials had said that the Abrams was tough to maintain, hard to train Ukrainians to operate, and ran on jet fuel — making it a poor choice for this phase of the war.

The disclosure about the softening U.S. position came the same day that Poland said it had submitted a formal request asking Germany to allow the re-export of its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrat party has been holding back, wary of moves that could cause Moscow to escalate further.

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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