- Ukraine says the tanks will be a “fist punch” for democracy
- Poland submits an order to Germany to supply tanks to Kyiv
- The United States may drop its opposition to providing Abrams tanks
- Ukrainian officials were expelled in the biggest shake-up of the war
- Kyiv: Zelensky’s actions answered the public call for justice
BERLIN/Kyiv (Reuters) – Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do the same to help Kyiv counter a Russian invasion, while the United States may supply Abrams tanks, two sources familiar with the matter said. He told Reuters.
While there was no official confirmation from Berlin or Washington late Tuesday, officials in Kyiv quickly hailed what they said was a potential game-changer on the battlefield in the now 11-month-old war.
“A few hundred tanks for our tank crews – the best tank crews in the world. This is what will become a real fist of democracy against tyranny from the swamp,” Andrei Yermak, head of administration to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
Kyiv has pleaded for months for Western tanks, saying it desperately needs to give its forces the firepower and mobility to break through Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territories to the east and south.
A spokesman for the German government and the foreign and defense ministries in Berlin declined to comment.
Der Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news, said the German decision concerned the company of at least one of the Leopard 2 A6 tanks. One company usually consists of 14 tanks.
“Today the chancellor made a decision that no one took seriously. The fact that Germany will support Ukraine with a Leopard tank is a strong sign of solidarity,” the newspaper quoted Christian Dwyer, parliamentary leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) party. As told by the news portal t-online.
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 frozen in place for two months despite heavy casualties on both sides. It is widely believed that Russia and Ukraine are planning new attacks.
The failure to supply Ukraine with large numbers of modern heavy battle tanks has dominated discussions among Kyiv’s Western allies in recent days.
Berlin was pivotal, because the German-made Panthers, fielded by armies across Europe, were widely seen as the best option—available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain.
The Social Democrats, led by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, were wary of moves that might spur Russia to escalate the war, and what they saw as the danger of NATO being drawn into the conflict.
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 territorial grab to subjugate a fellow former Soviet republic that Moscow views as an artificial state.
Earlier on Tuesday, Poland stepped up pressure on Schulz to make a decision, saying it had sent a formal request to the German government to allow it to send some Panthers. Defense procurement rules mean that Berlin must agree to the re-export of NATO’s giant tank by its allies.
Two US officials told Reuters that Washington may drop its opposition to sending some M1 Abrams tanks.
While the Abrams is considered less suitable than the Leopard for Ukraine due to its higher fuel consumption and difficulty in maintaining, the move appears designed to make it easier for Germany – which has called for a united front among Ukraine’s allies – to allow the supply of the Leopards.
The Pentagon declined to comment on any upcoming announcements about Abrams. It also declined to comment on whether Germany would give the green light to deliver the Panthers.
Separately, Ukraine on Tuesday sacked more than a dozen senior officials including the governors of several key battleground provinces, part of an anti-corruption drive by Zelensky’s government made more central by the need to keep its Western backers on side.
Among the Ukrainian officials who resigned or were sacked on Tuesday were the governors of Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. Neighboring Kherson, Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk are now front-line provinces. Kyiv and Sumy were major battlefields earlier in the war.
A deputy defense minister, a deputy prosecutor general, a deputy chief of Zelensky’s office, and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development were among the others who left.
Some, though not all, have been linked 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.
Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelensky’s aide, tweeted: “The president sees and hears society. He responds directly to a key public demand – justice for all.”
The purge came two days after the deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and accused of siphoning off $400,000 in contracts to buy generators — one of the first major corruption scandals to be publicized since the war began 11 months ago.
The Defense Ministry said Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who is in charge of supplying the forces, had resigned to maintain confidence after what it said were false media accusations of corruption. This followed a press report that the ministry overpaid for food to the troops, which the ministry denied.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelensky’s office, announced his resignation, without giving any reason. He helped run the president’s 2019 election campaign, and most recently had a role overseeing regional policy.
As the change began in a series of announcements, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a cabinet meeting that Ukraine was making progress in its anti-corruption campaign. “It is a systematic and sequential work, which is very necessary for Ukraine and an integral part of integration with the European Union,” he said.
The European Union, which offered Ukraine candidate member status last June, welcomed the development.
An EU spokeswoman said: “As a general rule, we do not comment on ongoing criminal investigations, but we welcome the fact that the Ukrainian authorities take these cases very seriously.”
(Reporting from the Reuters offices; Writing by Peter Graf and Alex Richardson; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrichs)
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