German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to deliver Leopard 2 heavy battle tanks to Ukraine and allow allied countries to do the same, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, while the United States may they too send tanks to Kyiv to help it against the Russian offensive.
Two German media, the Spiegel and the NTV news channel, assured that Mr. Scholz, who will speak at noon in front of the lower house of Parliament, was likely to give the green light on this occasion to countries, including Poland and Finland, which wish to deliver German-made Leopard 2 tanks to kyiv.
An unexpected turnaround
The information was welcomed by Ukraine, which had long been asking, through the voice of its President Volodymyr Zelensky, for an acceleration of arms deliveries and the dispatch of tanks by its Western allies. “Discussions must end with decisions,” urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday evening. “The allies have the required number of tanks” needed by the Ukrainian army to overthrow the troops in Moscow, he said in his daily address.
According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, which first reported the decision from Berlin, the delivery concerns at least one squadron of Leopard 2 A6. A squadron is traditionally made up of fourteen vehicles. This decision comes a few days after a meeting between NATO allies which did not lead to an agreement on the shipment of heavy tanks to Ukraine. Germany was facing increased pressure from several countries European countries, such as Poland, to authorize them to supply Kyiv with Leopard tanks. Berlin had notably demanded that the United States do the same.
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In Washington, US officials told Reuters that the United States could soon lift its opposition to the delivery of Abrams battle tanks. An announcement could be made this week, added these representatives, while specifying that no decision had been ratified. The Pentagon declined a request for comment on the matter. But Abrams battle tanks and other armored vehicles were seen at a rail yard in Washington
A senior Ukrainian representative said on Tuesday that the delivery of the Leopard tanks was necessary to restore Ukraine’s borders, saying he saw the decision as an important boost to democracy. “It will become a real punch of democracy against autocracy,” Andriy Yermak said via messaging app Telegram.
“Western tanks will burn”
Western tanks will “burn” if delivered to Ukraine, the Kremlin hammered Wednesday, when Germany and the United States could announce the delivery of these heavy armored vehicles to kyiv. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, estimated on Wednesday that a decision by Washington to send combat tanks to Ukraine would represent “another obvious provocation”.
“It is obvious that Washington is deliberately trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us,” Anatoly Antonov said in comments posted on the embassy’s Telegram account. “If the United States decides to deliver tanks, then justifying this choice by invoking the argument of defensive weapons will not work. It would represent another obvious provocation”.
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(with AFP and Reuters)