- Ukraine says the tanks will be a “fist punch” for democracy
- Kyiv expects renewed Russian pressure on Bakhmut
- Ukraine purifies its leadership in the anti-corruption campaign
BERLIN/Kyiv (Reuters) – The United States and Germany are preparing to give a major boost to Kyiv’s war effort by delivering heavy battle tanks to Ukraine, sources said, in a move Moscow condemned as a “flagrant provocation”.
Washington was expected to announce on Wednesday that it would send M1 Abrams tanks and Berlin decided to send Leopard 2 tanks, the sources said, in a policy shift that Kyiv said would help reshape the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once again pressured Western allies to present their latest battle tanks, saying in his nightly video address that “discussions must be concluded with resolutions”.
So far, Germany and the United States have refrained from providing heavy armor, fearing moves that might give the Kremlin reason to expand the conflict.
Moscow has warned that supplies of modern offensive weapons to Ukraine will escalate the war, with some Russian officials warning that Kyiv’s allies are leading the world into a “global catastrophe”. Moscow has said repeatedly that it is fighting the West’s collective in Ukraine.
Russia’s ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said on Wednesday that deliveries of battle tanks by Washington to Ukraine would be “another flagrant provocation” against Russia.
“It is clear that Washington is intentionally trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us,” Antonov said in remarks posted on the embassy’s Telegram messaging app.
Two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was ready to begin a process that would eventually send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, just days after it refused to accede to Kyiv’s requests.
A third official said the US commitment could amount to 30 tanks delivered over the coming months.
Meanwhile, two informed sources told Reuters that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do so as well.
Spiegel magazine, which first broke the news, reported that Germany plans to supply at least one company with Leopard 2 A6 tanks, which usually consist of 14 tanks. The magazine stated that other allies, in Scandinavia for example, intend to join Germany in providing Kyiv with Leopard tanks.
While there was no official confirmation from Berlin or Washington, officials in Kyiv hailed what they said was a potential game-changer on the battlefield in a now 11-month-old war — even if the rumored tank numbers fall short of the hundreds they say they need to liberate all occupied territory.
Andrei Yermak, head of the Zelensky administration, wrote on Telegram: “A few hundred tanks for our tank crews… This is what will become a real fist of democracy.”
The front lines were frozen
The front lines in the war, which stretches more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) across eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely immobilized for two months despite heavy casualties on both sides. It is widely believed that Russia and Ukraine are planning new attacks.
On Tuesday night, Zelensky said Russia was ramping up its push towards Bakhmut, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine that has been the focus of heavy fighting. “They want to increase pressure more broadly,” he said.
Discussions among Kyiv’s Western allies have dominated discussions in recent days over whether to supply Ukraine with large numbers of modern heavy battle tanks.
Berlin was pivotal because the German-made Panthers, fielded by about 20 militaries around the world, were seen as the best option. Tanks are available in large numbers and are easy to deploy and maintain.
While the US Abrams tank is considered less suitable due to its high fuel consumption and difficulty in maintaining, a US move to send it to Ukraine could make it easier for Germany – which has called for a united front among Ukraine’s allies – to allow the supply. leopards.
Russian President Vladimir Putin describes the “special military operation” that began when his forces invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year as a defensive and existential battle against an aggressive and arrogant West.
Ukraine and the West characterize Russia’s actions as an unjustified grab of territory to subjugate a fellow ex-Soviet republic that Moscow views as an artificial state.
Separately, Ukraine on Tuesday sacked more than a dozen senior officials as part of an anti-corruption campaign made all the more crucial by the need to keep its Western backers on side.
The European Union, which offered Ukraine candidate member status last June, welcomed the development.
Among the Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed were the governors of Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, the last three front-line provinces. Kyiv and Sumy were major battlefields earlier in the war.
Some, but not all, of the officials who left were connected to allegations of corruption.
Ukraine has a history of graft and fragile governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable proxy for billions of dollars in Western aid.
Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates; Editing by Himani Sarker
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