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Czech government approves purchase of 246 armoured combat vehicles

CV90 combat vehicles seen during the Aurora 23 military exercise at Rinkaby firing range outside Kristianstad

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government on Wednesday approved a plan to buy 246 infantry fighting vehicles for the country's army, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.

The CV90 armoured tracked vehicles, which are made by a Swedish unit of Britain's BAE Systems, will cost 59.7 billion crowns (2.52 billion euros) and be delivered from 2026 until 2030, Defence Minister Jana Cernochova told reporters.

The long-awaited order was announced as the NATO country accelerates increases in defence spending in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with a goal of reaching the alliance's minimum of 2% of GDP from next year.

The vehicles will be used to equip an armoured brigade the Czechs have pledged to build up by 2026 as part of the country's NATO commitments.

It includes at least 40% participation by Czech industry, Cernochova said.

The country will also start talks on joining the German government in buying Leopard 2A8 tanks from German arms manufacturer KMW, Cernochova said.

The Czech army may buy around 70 tanks with delivery by 2030, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

A joint order with Germany and possibly other countries could lead KMW to raise capacity, cut the unit price and speed up delivery, the ministry said.

The German government welcomed the move. "The Czech Republic's entry into a German contract is a big step," German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.

Earlier, Germany's parliamentary budget committee approved the purchase of 18 Leopard 2 tanks and 12 self-propelled howitzers to replenish stocks depleted by supplies to Ukraine.

(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers; Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Toby Chopra, Paul Simao and Jan Harvey)