US and Germany prepare to send tanks to Ukraine in response to Kyiv plea

  • Ukraine says tanks will be ‘fist’ of democracy
  • Zelensky: “The need is greater”
  • Russian envoy says transporting tanks would be ‘blatant provocation’
  • Russia-backed leader says Wagner forces advance on Bakhmut

BERLIN/KYIV, Jan 25 (Reuters) – The United States and Germany are preparing to announce plans to send heavy tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday, sources said, in a decisive boost to support that was hailed in Kyiv as a potential breakthrough, and the Denounced by Moscow as a reckless provocation.

For months, Kyiv has been calling on Western main battle tanks to provide its troops with the firepower, protection and mobility to break through Russian lines and raid invader-held territory.

“Hundreds of tanks for our tank crews…it will be a real democratic fist,” said Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government. ) wrote on Telegram as reports of the plans emerged.

While there is no official confirmation, the expected delivery of dozens of American M1 Abrams tanks and at least one company of 14 German Leopards will mark a watershed moment in Western support for Ukraine. Germany’s decision would open the door to other European allies, which also field Leopard fighter jets. Kyiv needs hundreds of people.

Just last week, the allies pledged billions of dollars worth of new military aid but did not send tanks, with some politicians in Germany worried about escalating the situation by angering Moscow.

Zelensky, who turned 45 on Wednesday, again urged Western allies to provide their most modern main battle tanks, saying “there is a greater need” in a video address Tuesday night.

Moscow says supplying Ukraine with modern offensive weapons will only delay what it sees as an inevitable Russian victory. Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said the delivery of the US main battle tank would be “another flagrant provocation”.

“It is clear that Washington is deliberately trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us,” Antonov said on the embassy’s Telegram message channel. “American tanks will be destroyed by our troops in the same way as all other samples of NATO equipment. as if destroyed.”

Western officials in favor of sending the tanks dismiss Moscow’s threat as a bluff, arguing that Russia is already waging all-out war and has been prevented from attacking NATO.

dozens or tanks

In the 11 months since the invasion, Russia has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions from their homes and leveled entire cities.

It said its “special military operations” were necessary to stem the security threat stemming from Ukraine’s ties to the West, which it now describes as an attempt to destroy it. Kyiv and its Western allies say Ukraine has never threatened Russia and that the invasion was a war of aggression to subdue its neighbor and seize land.

Ukraine defeated Russian forces on the outskirts of Kyiv last year and later drove them out of the occupied swath of land. But Moscow still holds about a sixth of Ukraine, which it has declared part of Russia.

Despite heavy losses on both sides, the front has been largely frozen for two months and both sides are believed to be planning new offensives in the spring.

Zelensky said Russia was stepping up its advance on the industrial town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where months of trench warfare that has killed thousands of troops has been called a “meat grinder” by both sides.

The Russian-appointed governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said on Wednesday that Russian Wagner contract militia units were now advancing on the territory of Bakhmut.

“Troops, especially Wagner’s, are advancing in Artemovsk itself,” TASS quoted Denis Pushilin as saying, using the Russian name for Bakhmut. “Fighting has taken place in suburbs and neighborhoods that until recently were occupied by the enemy.”

Reuters was unable to verify what was happening there.

Western military experts say Russia’s focus on Bahmut has left its military vulnerable as it wastes manpower in a costly battle over a target of limited strategic significance. But some believe that the slow pace of Western military aid so far has hindered Ukraine’s counterattack.

Analysts at the Washington-based Institute for War Research said the West’s slowness to deliver more weaponry “has prevented Ukraine from taking advantage of the opportunity to trap Russian forces in Bakhmut”.

The question of whether to send heavy tanks has dominated the debate among allies on how best to support Ukraine.

Germany matters because its Leopard tanks field about 20 armies around the world, much more than other European heavy tanks, and are easier to deploy than the gas-guzzling, turbine-powered American Abrams tanks And maintenance.

But Berlin has been reluctant to send them unless Washington also sends its tanks in a show of a unified Western front.

Two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was preparing to start a process that would eventually send dozens of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to send the Panthers and is allowing other countries, such as Poland, to do the same, two sources said.

Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Kevin Liffey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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