- Germany’s Leopard tanks are considered the most suitable for Ukraine
- All eyes will be on Germany when defense leaders meet on Friday
- US allocates USD 125 million to Ukraine to support energy systems
- Cabinet ministers among dead in Ukraine helicopter crash
Kyiv/BERLIN, Jan 19 (Portal) – Germany will send German-made tanks to Ukraine as long as the United States agrees to do the same, a government source in Berlin told Portal, as NATO partners questioned whether how best to arm, are out of step Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Ukraine has pleaded for modern Western weaponry, particularly heavy battle tanks, so that after some successes on the battlefield it can regain momentum in the second half of 2022 against Russian forces that invaded last February.
Berlin has veto power over any decision to export its Leopard tanks, which are used by NATO-allied armies across Europe and are considered by defense experts to be the most suitable for Ukraine.
In the past few days, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly stressed behind closed doors the condition that US tanks should also be sent to Ukraine, the federal government source said on condition of anonymity.
When asked about Germany’s stance, US President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman, Karine Jean-Pierre, said: “The President believes that each country should make its own sovereign decisions about what steps of security assistance and what kind of equipment it should provide.” Ukraine can provide.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would provide Ukraine with $125 million to support its energy and power grids following targeted attacks by Russian forces on those utilities.
NATO allies have tried to avoid the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia and have refrained from sending their most powerful weapons to Ukraine.
US officials said Biden’s administration is expected to next approve Stryker armored vehicles for Ukraine, which are being manufactured in Canada for the US Army, but are unwilling to send US tanks.
The Pentagon is still unwilling to honor Kiev’s request for M1 Abrams tanks, said Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top political adviser, who had just returned from a trip to Ukraine.
“I just don’t think we’re still there,” said Kahl. “The Abrams tank is a very complicated machine. It’s expensive. It’s difficult to train on. It has a jet engine.”
Kahl’s comments came before senior defense officials from dozens of countries met Friday at the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to coordinate military aid to Kyiv.
Germany’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius receives US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday.
PRESSURE ON GERMANY
Attention at Friday’s meeting will focus on Germany, which has said Western tanks should only be supplied to Ukraine if there is an agreement between Kiev’s main allies.
Britain this month upped the pressure on Berlin by becoming the first Western country to send tanks to Ukraine and pledging a squadron of its challengers. Poland and Finland have announced they will send Leopard tanks if Germany agrees to them.
Speaking via video link at the Davos Forum on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies to resupply his country before Russia launches its next missile and armored ground attacks.
“Ukraine’s supply of air defense systems must surpass Russia’s next missile strikes,” said Zelenskyy. “Western tank stockpiles must surpass another invasion of Russian tanks.”
Germany’s Leopard 2 is considered one of the best tanks in the West. It weighs over 60 tons (60,000 kilograms), carries a 120mm smoothbore cannon and can hit targets up to five kilometers (three miles) away.
Ukraine, which has relied mostly on Soviet-era T-72 tank variants, says the new tanks will give its troops the mobile firepower to rout Russian troops in crucial battles.
DIFFICULT FRONT SITUATION
Fighting has focused on southern and eastern Ukraine after Russia’s initial attack from the north aimed at taking Kyiv was thwarted in the first months of an invasion that Russian President Vladimir Putin described as a “military special operation”.
“The situation on the front lines remains tough, with Donbass being the epicenter of the fiercest and most principled fighting,” Zelenskyy said in a video address on Wednesday. “We are seeing a gradual increase in bombing and attempts to mount offensive actions by the invaders.”
Donbass, consisting of Luhansk and Donetsk, is the industrial heartland in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have been pushing for control of the Donetsk town of Bakhmut for months, but with limited success, and have shifted their attention to the smaller nearby town of Soledar in recent weeks.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said in a YouTube video that Ukrainian army units remained in Soledar, with heavy fighting in the western districts, despite Russian claims for more than a week that they now control the town.
Portal could not verify battlefield reports.
Separately, a helicopter crashed in fog near a kindergarten outside Kyiv on Wednesday, killing 14 people, including Ukraine’s interior minister and a child.
Ukrainian officials have not indicated that any action by Russia was responsible for the helicopter crash.
The crash was “a terrible tragedy” and “the pain is unspeakable,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram, and in his late-night video address he said he had asked SBU intelligence to investigate the cause.
Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Portal offices; writing by Grant McCool and Himani Sarkar; Edited by Howard Goller and Simon Cameron-Moore
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