After weeks of hesitation, the United States and Germany announced on Wednesday the delivery of heavy tanks to Ukraine, reflecting further Western support for kyiv in the prospect of a possible counter-offensive to the invasion Russian.
Washington has announced the dispatch of 31 Abrams, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised Leopard 2s, armored vehicles that kyiv has long been asking for to deal with the Russian steamroller.
“This is not an offensive threat against Russia,” said US President Joe Biden.
Berlin must provide kyiv with 14 Leopard 2 type 2A6 from the stocks of its army, the Bundeswehr, and has decided to allow its Western allies with these German-made tanks to do the same.
“We are doing what is necessary and possible to support Ukraine, but at the same time we are preventing an escalation of the war, towards a war between Russia and NATO”, underlined Mr. Scholz before the Bundestag, the chamber bass of the German parliament.
– Russian anger –
“It is an extremely dangerous decision which will bring the conflict to a new level of confrontation”, reacted the Russian ambassador in Berlin, Sergei Netchaev.
“This convinces us once again that Germany, like its closest allies, does not want a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis and wants a permanent escalation,” he said. said.
In the immediate future, “the key is now the speed and volume” of tank deliveries, underlined the Ukrainian president. The delivery of these armored vehicles is “an important step for the final victory”, added Volodymyr Zelensky. “Today the free world is united as never before with a common goal: the liberation of Ukraine,” he insisted.
According to experts, the fear of a military escalation with Moscow had a lot to do with the Western camp’s hesitation in supplying heavy tanks to kyiv.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius estimated that the first tanks from Germany could be in Ukraine within three months.
Norway has also promised Ukraine Leopard 2s. According to several media, the coalition of countries ready to provide such armored vehicles also includes Denmark and the Netherlands, in addition to Poland and Finland. Spain has confirmed that it is “willing” to also deliver tanks.
The Leopards will “reinforce the defensive capacity” of Ukraine, estimated the United Kingdom, which has committed to delivering 14 heavy Challenger 2 tanks.
For the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, “at a critical moment in the war waged by Russia”, the heavy tanks sent to kyiv “can help Ukraine to defend itself, to win and to prevail in as an independent nation”.
– Cluster bombs –
A European official, who did not want to be identified by name or country of origin, also said that his government was trying to send Ukraine cluster bombs.
This type of bomb is banned by a convention signed in 2008 by most Western countries, but not by Russia, which has been accused of using them in Ukraine.
“The Ukrainians are asking for them. They are legitimate weapons. The collateral damage is not so important anymore. It was extremely important in the 1940s and 1950s; today it is rather manageable,” the European official said during of a visit to Washington.
“The Russians used all kinds of weapons that are 100 times worse than cluster bombs,” he said, assuring that Ukraine “must win the war”. He said his government had approved the delivery and was seeking approval from Germany, which is involved in the production.
The Ukrainian army also admitted on Wednesday that it had ceded Soledar, a city neighboring Bakhmout, two weeks after the announcement of its capture by Moscow.
In another register, Ukraine spoke of a “diplomatic victory” after the historic center of Odessa, a Ukrainian port city on the shores of the Black Sea, was inscribed on Wednesday on the UNESCO list of world heritage in danger. because of the “threats of destruction” hanging over this site since the start of the Russian invasion.
It is a “political” decision taken “in a hurry”, criticized for its part the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In connection with the conflict in Ukraine, a decision was also taken not to invite Russian representatives to the celebrations of the 78th anniversary of the liberation by the Red Army of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, announced the site museum.