Ukraine’s allies must ‘dig deeper’ in military aid, US urges | UKTN news

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday urged allies to dig deeper to support Ukraine ahead of a meeting of dozens of defense ministers at an air base in Germany as pressure mounted on Berlin to deploy tanks. Kiev to deliver.

NATO and defense leaders from about 50 countries, including Canada, meet at Ramstein Air Base, the latest in a series of arms pledge conferences since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago.

“Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to re-equip,” Austin said at the start of the meeting.

“This is not a time to slow down. It is a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us,” he said without referring specifically to tanks.

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The United States on Thursday announced an additional $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine, a package that will include more armored vehicles and munitions.

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand announced a day earlier that Ottawa was donating 200 Canadian-made armored personnel carriers (APCs) to Ukraine.

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Tank talk expected

But the main focus is on whether Germany will send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine or at least approve their transfer from third countries.

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Germany has become one of Ukraine’s main military supporters in response to the Russian invasion, overcoming a taboo rooted in its bloody 20th-century history, but has not yet agreed to send tanks or allow other countries to do so. to send their own German-made tanks.

Leopard tanks are seen as particularly suitable for Ukraine as they are widely used, meaning that different countries can each retrofit a number of their tanks to support Ukraine.

This would also make it easier for Ukraine to manage crew maintenance and training.

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Critics say German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his ruling SPD are too slow, waiting for the allies to act first rather than accept Germany’s responsibility as the closest Western power to Ukraine.

Government sources in Germany have said it would deal with the issue of Leopard tanks if the United States agreed to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

The United States has made it clear that it will not be sending Abrams any time soon, arguing that it would be a logistical nightmare for Ukrainian troops to use the US tanks because of the fuel and maintenance required.

A large crater in a sand field is shown in front of a low building.
Police officers on Friday inspect a crater left by a Russian missile strike near a school in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

In one of his first interviews as Germany’s new defense minister late Thursday, Boris Pistorius did not explicitly describe Abrams’ deliveries as a condition of Leopard supplies.

“We are well aware that it is [the Leopard] can play an important role,” he told German public TV channel ZDF, stressing the importance of joint transatlantic decisions.

“No one is ruling out delivery of the Leopard tank – or approval for deliveries from other European partners.”

Public pressure on Berlin has increased.

“Ukrainians will fight! With tanks or without. But every Ramstein tank means Ukrainian lives saved,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram.

More military aid announced

Several countries will announce at the meeting in Ramstein on Friday that they will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Lithuania’s defense minister said on Thursday.

Poland could send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine even without Germany’s re-export permit, a deputy foreign minister said Friday, ahead of a nuclear weapons meeting for Kiev.

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Britain has said it would send 14 of its main battle tanks to Ukraine along with additional artillery support, a move officials hope will open the door for Germany to take similar steps.

The Kremlin spokesman said on Friday that Western countries supplying additional tanks to Ukraine will not change the course of the conflict and will add to the problems of the Ukrainian people.

Also, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said specifically about Russia’s relationship with the United States: “Bilateral relations, unfortunately, are probably at their lowest point in history.”

The fighting has been fiercest in the industrial region known as the Donbas on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, Ukrainian military officials said Thursday night.

A large burst of fire is seen from a military weapon fixed to the ground with a tripod.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar into Russian positions on a frontline near the town of Soledar, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on Jan. 14, which is currently seeing some of the most intense fighting in the war. (Serhii Nuzhnenko/Radio Free Europe/Reuters)

The Ukrainian army said Russian troops shelled the town of Bakhmut, Russia’s main target in Donetsk province, which forms the Donbass together with Luhansk province.

Soledar, about 20 kilometers from Bakhmut, also came under fire. Russian troops say they control Soledar, while Ukrainian sources say their army is still fighting there.

“Ukrainian troops have practically stabilized the front around Bakhmut,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube. “As of today, Russia is turning Soledar into a military center. And they are trying to divert troops to the towns of Spirne and Bilohorivka – just inside the Luhansk region.”

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

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