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ZARAGOZA: Ukrainian soldiers are finishing this week a four-week training course in Spain on how to operate the Leopard 2 tanks that Western allies have agreed to deliver to help Kyiv fight Russian forces, said the Spanish ministry on Monday.
The 55 Ukrainian trainees arrived in Spain in mid-February and are expected to fly to Poland on Wednesday as they begin to make their way back to Ukraine and the front line, ministry sources said.
They have been training 12 hours a day, six days a week, at a Spanish military base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, Captain Contreras, who declined to give his first name, told reporters Monday during a tour of a training camp military San Gregorio. .
On Saturdays, they only trained in the mornings, said the officer, who was the head of the Spanish military unit responsible for training Ukrainian soldiers.
“They are highly motivated,” he added. “They have a strong desire to learn and they are eager to return and contribute to the defense of their country.”
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The soldiers ranged in age from 21 to 60 and all had previous battle tank experience, he said.
“Although battle tanks are different, there are many systems that are similar, and that made things much easier,” said Captain Contreras.
The group received technical and tactical training and will return to Ukraine “with very acceptable knowledge” of the German-made Leopard 2A4 tanks, he added.
Part of the European Union’s military aid to Ukraine, the training included exercises on simulators and real Leopard 2 tanks.
Captain Contreras said his team gave the group as little theoretical training as possible, “because they prefer practical training, as you can understand.”
The soldiers operated several tanks on a field at the military base on Monday, kicking up a trail of dust behind the vehicles.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said during a visit to Kyiv in February that Spain would immediately send six Leopard 2A4 tanks and that he hoped to send four more later.
Germany initially resisted pressure from allies to authorize the move, but early this year agreed to send its own Leopards and gave the green light to deliveries from other countries.
Ukrainian soldiers praised the tanks’ “higher capacity” than those they had used before and those they faced from the Russian side, Captain Contreras added.