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Belgium cannot offer tanks to Ukraine - because it sold them to a private collector

07:53 09/02/2023

Belgium is unable to offer any tanks to the Ukrainian government - but it isn't for lack of desire to aid the country in its defence against the Russian invasion.

The reason is that the Belgian army sold its tanks to a private collector in Tournai who is now offering to give them back, but no agreement has been reached on the price.

That private entity is a Belgian defence company that possesses a number of armoured vehicles that Ukraine is urgently seeking, RTL reports.

But they are not willing to give them up without netting a profit.

The vehicles include German-made Leopard tanks. RTL toured a hangar filled with such tanks, along with other armoured vehicles.

“Here we have the famous Leopard 1, an A5 version, a Belgian Leopard – we bought it about eight years ago on the market,” the company’s managing director Freddy Versluys told the French-language news outlet.

“They are available for sale over here, but we can't use them as is of course.”

Versluys joined the defence company and bought up old and non-operational equipment, believing that strong demand would one day return.

Belgium has no more tanks in its defence stock, but has explored the possibility of buying back the tanks sold to Versluys in order to send them to Ukraine.

But Belgium’s minister of defence said Versluys’ prices are unreasonable and extremely high.

“These tanks were sold for an estimated €10,000 to €15,000 because they were no longer working,” said minister Ludivine Dedonder.

“Nothing prevents us from buying them back, but they are still not operational. We’re not offering to buy them back at an unreasonable price, either. We are looking at a resale price of €500,000 each.”

Versluys denies having been approached by the Belgian government and says it is difficult to estimate the price at which he would sell the tanks.

“I have never given the government a price, but that can range from €200,000 to €300,000 depending on what we have to do,” he said.

Any export of a Leopard tank would require the approval of the Walloon region where the company is based and also approval from Berlin, as the tanks were made by a German company.

Written by Helen Lyons