- Ukraine says tanks will be democracy’s ‘punching fist’
- Kyiv predicts Russian push for Bakhmut
- Ukraine purges leadership in anti-corruption drive
BERLIN/KYIV, Jan 25 (Reuters): The U.S. and Germany are poised to deliver heavy battle tanks to Ukraine to give Kyiv’s war effort a significant boost, a move Moscow condemned as a “blatant provocation.”
Washington is expected to announce as soon as Wednesday that it will send M1 Abrams tanks, and sources said Berlin had decided to send Leopard 2 tanks, a reversal in policy that Kyiv said could help reshape the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed pressure on Western allies to provide their most modern battle tanks, saying in a video speech overnight that “discussions must end with decisions.”
Germany and the United States have so far refrained from providing heavy armor, and the Kremlin is wary of moves that could escalate the conflict.
Moscow has warned that supplying Ukraine with modern offensive weapons could escalate the war, with some Russian officials warning that Kyiv’s allies are leading the world into a “global disaster”. Moscow has now repeatedly said it is fighting a collective West in Ukraine.
Washington’s delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine would be another blatant provocation against Russia, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said on Wednesday.
“It is clear that Washington is deliberately trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us,” Antonov said in remarks published on the embassy’s Telegram messaging app.
Two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was ready to finally begin a process to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, after days of arguing against granting Kyiv’s requests.
About 30 tanks will be delivered in the coming months under the US commitment, a third official said.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do the same, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news, said Germany plans to deliver at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, which normally consists of 14 tanks. Other allies in Scandinavia, for example, plan to join Germany in supplying their Leopard tanks to Kyiv, the magazine reported.
Although there has been no official confirmation from Berlin or Washington, officials in Kyiv have hailed what they say is a game changer on the battlefield in a war now 11 months old – even though the rumored tank numbers fall short of the hundreds they say they need. To liberate all occupied territories.
“Hundreds of tanks for our tank crews … this is going to be a real fist of democracy,” Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrei Yermak, wrote in a telegram.
The front lines were frozen
The battle fronts, which stretch more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) across eastern and southern Ukraine, have been frozen for two months despite heavy casualties on both sides. Russia and Ukraine are widely believed to be planning new attacks.
Zelensky said Tuesday night that Russia was stepping up its advance on the industrial city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. “They want to increase the pressure on a large scale,” he said.
Whether to provide Ukraine with significant numbers of modern heavy battle tanks has been a dominating debate among Kyiv’s Western allies in recent days.
Berlin is critical because the German-made Leopards, fielded by about 20 armies around the world, are seen as the best option. Tanks are widely available and easy to deploy and maintain.
Although the US Abrams tank is considered unsuitable due to its heavy fuel consumption and difficulty in maintaining, the US move to send it to Ukraine will make it easier for Germany – which has called for a united front among Ukraine’s allies – to allow delivery. Leopards.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” on February 24 last year when he invaded Ukraine, declaring it a defensive and existential struggle against an aggressive and recalcitrant West.
Ukraine and the West call Russia’s actions an unprovoked land grab to subjugate a former Soviet republic that Moscow views as an artificial state.
Purification of leadership
Separately on Tuesday, Ukraine dismissed more than a dozen senior officials as part of an anti-corruption drive, making the need to sideline its Western backers even more critical.
The EU, which offered Ukraine candidate membership last June, welcomed the development.
Among the Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed were the governors of the last three leading provinces: Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. Kiev and Sumi were major battlegrounds earlier in the war.
Some, if not all, of the officials who left were linked to corruption allegations.
Ukraine has a history of corruption and shaky governance and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.
Reporting by Reuters bureaus; By Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates; Editing by Himani Sarkar
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