Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia’s Claim Czech Republic Seized Moroccan Tanks is Baseless

A Ukrainian T-72 tank fires at Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, March 26, 2023. (Photo by Sergey SHESTAK / AFP)
Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

“The remaining armored vehicles, numbering 74 units, were actually expropriated by the Czech side for subsequent transfer to the combat zone in Ukraine.”


On April 17, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that the Czech Republic seized 74 Soviet-era tanks from Morrocco and transferred them to Ukraine:

“Morocco signed a contract with the Czech company ‘Excalibur Army’ ... for the modernization of a batch of 130 T-72B tanks acquired in 1999-2001 in the Republic of Belarus. After carrying out the relevant work, 56 tanks were returned to the Kingdom. The remaining armored vehicles, numbering 74 units, were actually expropriated by the Czech side for subsequent transfer to the combat zone in Ukraine.”

That is unsubstantiated.

Morocco did not protest any seizure of its tanks, nor did it confirm such expropriation even happened. Multiple media reports indicated the kingdom voluntarily handed over T-72B tanks to Ukraine after they were upgraded in the Czech Republic. Prague and the firm that upgraded the tanks dismissed Russia’s accusations as disinformation.

On December 5, 2022, the Czech news website reported that the United States and the European Union had convinced “an African country” to deliver to Ukraine spare parts for T-72 tanks, as well as T-72s modernized by the Czech company Excalibur Army.

Citing Excalibur Army’s commercial director, Richard Kubena, reported that the United States and the Netherlands had placed an order and paid 2.2 billion Czech crowns ($97 million) to modernize “up to 120 T-72 tanks.”

According to the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a Washington, D.C., research institute, the “African” tanks belonged to Morocco, and Excalibur Army said it would send 90 of them to Ukraine:

“Social media images state that the refurbished vehicles are Moroccan. Each tank features improved thermal imaging, night vision, and armor.”

Likewise, Army Recognition, a Belgium-based military news website, identified the “African country” as Morocco and reported:

“T-72B Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) modernized by the Czech company Excalibur Army for Morocco will be delivered to Ukraine.”

On January 22, both the Algerian news outlet MENA Defense and the Israeli-based international website i24NEWS reported that during a meeting at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base in April 2022, Morocco had agreed to send Ukraine an unspecified number of T-72B tanks that were being modernized in the Czech Republic. In return, the United States reportedly promised to provide Morocco with financial and military support.

MENA Defense wrote:

“About twenty units were sent to the battlefield a week ago, and they were visible during the visit of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala to the workshops of the Excalibur Army company in Sternberk, which had carried out their refurbishment.”

On January 26, Germany’s state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) noted that the delivery of Moroccan tanks to Ukraine coincided with the start of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s African tour.

DW quoted Alice Gower, director of geopolitics and security at London-based consulting firm Azure Strategy, as saying:

"[This] marks a setback to Russia's attempts to keep the continent on side, or at least neutral, particularly within the U.N. African states have been careful in their approach, abstaining from, or rejecting, the various U.N. resolutions condemning Russia."

On January 30, The New Arab, a London-based news website, reported it had contacted the Moroccan foreign ministry for comment on an alleged secret delivery of T-72B tanks from Morocco to Ukraine, “but its officials refused to confirm or deny the arms deal.”

The New Arab also noted that Morocco did not participate in the United Nations vote condemning Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, on October 12, 2022, Morocco voted in favor of a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on U.N. member states not to recognize Russia’s claim over the four Ukraine regions Moscow occupied at the time. The resolution also demanded that Russia reverse its "attempted illegal annexation" of those territories.

On March 1, Hespress, a Moroccan online news website, reported that Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita denied Morocco had donated tanks to Ukraine. “Morocco is not a party to this armed conflict and has not and will not participate in it in any way,” said Bourita.

"We regret to see that the Russian Foreign Ministry has become a ministry of lies and war," Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Drake told the Czech News Agency (CTK), a national public service news agency.

Excalibur Army spokesman Andrej Cirtek dismissed Russian claims as senseless disinformation.