OTTAWA - Canada said Thursday it will join the United States, Germany and other countries in supplying heavy tanks to Ukraine to fight off Russian forces, with a shipment of four fully operational Leopards.
"These four tanks are combat-ready and will be deployed over the coming weeks," Defense Minister Anita Anand told a news conference, adding that the number of tanks provided by Canada could eventually rise.
Canada will deploy experts to train Ukrainian soldiers to operate the tanks, she said.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has pressed hard on Western allies to supply heavy tanks, and a growing list of Western allies have responded this week.
Germany agreed to supply 14 of the powerful tanks to Ukraine amid intense pressure from other European counties. Norway on Wednesday also said it would send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and Sweden said it had not ruled out following suit.
US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his administration will send 31 top-of-the-line M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, although delivery may not occur until next year.
The German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks are considered one of the best performing tank models worldwide, and their wide use means spare parts and ammunition can be easily obtained.
The fear of a military escalation with Moscow initially gave pause to Ukraine's allies to provide heavy tanks to Kiev. But the Canadian minister said Thursday that "the reality of this war has changed" and that Ukraine's allies "must show their unity."
"These heavily armored and highly protected vehicles offer soldiers a tactical advantage on the battlefield thanks to their excellent mobility, firepower and resistance," Anand said.
Canada has 82 German-made Leopard tanks but not all are combat-ready.