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Defense of Bakhmut has been a “great strategic success” for Ukraine, presidential advisor says

A Ukrainian serviceman carries a shell for a self-propelled howitzer before firing it toward Russian troops outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG, speaks during the company’s annual results conference in Duesseldorf, Germany, on March 17. (Marius Becker/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

The German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, who produces the Leopard battle tank among other heavy arms, is hoping to open a tank factory in Ukraine, CEO Armin Papperger has told a German newspaper.

Papperger, as quoted by the “Rheinische Post” daily over the weekend, said negotiations to build such a plant are ongoing and a decision could come within two months. 

A possible plant would cost about 200 million euros, or about $214 million, and about 400 tanks could be built annually, Papperger told “Rheinische Post.” 

Air defense systems could be in place to protect such a facility, he said.

Papperger added that a new version of the fully digitized battle tank “Panther” could be built in Ukraine.

Some background: Rheinmetall is the biggest arms manufacturer in Germany with about 25,000 employees. 

In January, the arms manufacturer said it had 139 Leopards in stock, but of those, only 29 Leopard 2s would be combat-ready for delivery in the spring of this year. Those 29 have already been theoretically pledged to other countries as part of a tank swap.

The rest of the stock needed to be prepared over a longer period of time, according to the company.

A Rheinmetall spokesperson told CNN that of the rest of the stock — 88 Leopard 1 tanks — a few could be deliverable in about nine months, and the rest in a year.

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