Berlin on Wednesday approved the delivery of powerful German-made Leopard tanks to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion, after weeks of pressure from Kiev and many allies.
Germany will provide a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from Bundeswehr stockpiles, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement.
It also authorizes other European countries to send tanks from their own stock to Ukraine, with the aim of quickly assembling “two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine,” he said.
While numerous countries have pledged military hardware to Ukraine, Kiev is crying out for the more advanced Leopard tanks, which are seen as key to breaking through enemy lines.
The package agreed upon by Chancellor Olaf Scholz would also provide training of Ukrainian armed forces for the use of the tanks in Germany, as well as logistics, ammunition and maintenance for the main battle tanks.
Scholz, who had faced fierce allegations that he had doubts about whether or not to send the tanks, will answer questions in Germany’s Bundestag parliament from 1pm (12pm GMT).
Several other European countries, including Finland and Poland, have said they are ready to deliver their supplies.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has reported that Washington was leaning toward sending a significant number of Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine.
The Kremlin warned on Wednesday that if Western countries supply Ukraine with heavy tanks, they will be destroyed on the battlefield.
– Extendable from Soledar –
“These tanks burn like any other. They are just very expensive,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The Kremlin’s warning came as a Moscow-backed official said Russian troops had advanced into Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine that Russia has been trying to capture for months.
The Ukrainian army also admitted to UKTN that its troops had withdrawn from battle-scarred Soledar, northeast of Bakhmut.
Russian forces had claimed control of Soledar earlier this month.
And Denis Pushilin, the top Moscow official in charge of Donetsk, said its capture “has now made it possible to block the enemy’s supply routes and partially take areas under operational control” from which Ukrainians have attacked Russian positions .
Amid the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, Kiev and several of its allies have been urging Germany for weeks to allow the delivery of the leopards, but a US-led meeting of Kiev’s allies in Germany last week failed to yield any results. decide on.
– ‘Obvious provocation’ –
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday accused the Germans of “walking slowly, staggering and behaving in a way that is difficult to understand”.
However, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said he had “expressly encouraged partner countries that have Leopard tanks ready to deploy to train Ukrainian troops on these tanks”.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov responded to reports that Washington might send battle tanks by saying such a move would show “the real aggressor in the current conflict.”
“If the United States decides to supply tanks, it will be impossible to justify such a move with arguments about ‘weapons of defense,'” he said, according to a post on the official Facebook page of the Russian embassy.
“This would be another blatant provocation against the Russian Federation.”
Under Berlin’s weapons of war control rules, countries using German-made weapons are required to seek Berlin’s consent if they wish to transfer them to a third party.
– Corruption scandal –
In a further show of international support for Ukraine, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he is considering visiting Ukraine, following an invitation from Zelensky.
“I will consider this in light of different circumstances and circumstances,” said Kushida, whose country is hosting this year’s Group of Seven meeting.
At home, however, Zelensky is grappling with a deepening corruption scandal, with his defense ministry shaken by allegations of food procurement fraud.
Local media reports last week accused the ministry of making a deal at prices “two to three times higher” than current rates on basic foodstuffs.
Several officials have resigned over the allegations, including a deputy defense minister, two deputy development ministers of Communities and Territories, and a deputy social policy minister.
Ukraine has a history of endemic corruption, including among the political elite, but efforts to eradicate corruption have been overshadowed by the war.
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