Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd has agreed to an external inquiry after government-owned defense contractor RUAG attempted to sell tanks to a German intermediary so that they could be delivered to Ukraine.
The investigation was announced, hours after Amherd participated in a hearing by the Swiss parliament’s Security Policy Committee.
Swiss lawmakers requested information on how much Amherd had known about the proposed deal, which the Swiss government ultimately blocked last month to protect the country’s neutrality.
The affair revolves around an estimated 96 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks, which RUAG purchased in 2016 and stores in Italy. The Swiss firm sought to sell them to the original German manufacturer, Rheinmetall, to be refurbished and sent to Ukraine.
The deal was originally announced in February, but the Federal Council concluded in late July that the terms would breach Swiss law and refused to authorize the transfer.
The probe will focus on the aborted deal as well as the management of RUAG, national media have reported. Some Swiss lawmakers have suggested that the government should have a representative on the company’s board of directors to ensure better oversight.
RUAG CEO Brigitte Beck stepped down two weeks ago after the government refused to approve the deal, having held the position for less than a year.
The company said an internal investigation had found no wrongdoing by Beck, but added that the controversy required a change in leadership. It also cited the CEO’s public criticism of Switzerland’s policy of neutrality as contributing to the decision.
Western-made armor was part of the military aid sent to Ukraine in preparation for its summer counteroffensive against Russia.
Kiev’s attempts to break through Russian defensive lines have thus far been unsuccessful, while modest territorial gains have come at a high cost, according to Moscow and Western media.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported at the end of July that Ukraine had lost 10 Leopard tanks among more than 2,000 pieces of heavy weaponry destroyed since the counteroffensive was launched in early June, 2023.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2023.