Ukraine on Saturday denounced its allies’ “global indecisiveness” after Germany refused to supply its vaunted Leopard tanks to bolster Kiev’s fighting capacity in its nearly year-long war with Russia.
On Friday, some 50 countries agreed to supply Kiev with billions of dollars worth of military hardware, including armored vehicles and ammunition needed to push back Russian troops.
But German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that despite heightened expectations: “We still cannot say when and what the decision will be when it comes to the Leopard tank.”
“Today’s indecision is killing more of our people,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
“Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster,” he said.
Several allies echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in saying that the tanks were essential to Ukraine’s struggle with its much larger neighbor.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states urged Germany to “supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine now.
“This is necessary to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and quickly restore peace in Europe,” said a message tweeted by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics and endorsed by his Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts.
“Germany, as the leading European power, has a special responsibility in this regard.”
In Berlin, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Federal Chancellery building, calling on Germany to send tanks to Ukraine.
Berlin was hesitant to send the Leopards or allow other countries to transfer them to Kiev.
Reports earlier this week indicated that Germany would only agree to this if the US supplied its tanks as well. Washington has said delivering its Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not feasible, citing difficulties in training and maintenance.
But ahead of Friday’s meeting of the Ukrainian Contact Group of about 50 US-led countries, expectations had grown that Germany would at least agree to let other countries using Leopards turn them over to Kiev’s army.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is currently visiting Kiev, called on both countries to provide the machines.
“To the Germans: send tanks to Ukraine because they need them. It is in your own national interest that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin loses in Ukraine.”
“To the (U.S. President Joe) Biden administration: Send U.S. tanks so that others will follow our example,” he said.
The pleas came as the Russian military said its troops had launched an offensive in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of a near-frozen front.
In their daily report on Saturday, Moscow’s troops said they had conducted “offensive operations” in the region and claimed to have “occupied more advantageous lines and positions”.
Russia also said it had conducted an exercise on repelling airstrikes in the Moscow region, using an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
Ukraine’s defense ministry reported 26 airstrikes and 15 attacks by multi-launch missile systems on Saturday.
“The enemy is not giving up its aggressive plans and is mainly focusing on attempts to completely occupy the Donetsk region,” it said on Ukraine’s border with Russia.
In Kiev, Zelensky attended the funeral of his interior minister and other officials who died in a helicopter crash outside the capital on Wednesday.
The seven coffins were hoisted into the echoing hall in the center of Kiev by military bearers in full ceremonial dress, to the sound of a lone trumpet and snare drum.
Denys Monastyrsky, one of Zelensky’s top aides, is the top Ukrainian official killed in the war that Russia started on February 24, 2022.
Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska wore all black and wore floral tributes.
“Ukraine loses its best sons and daughters every day,” Zelensky later said in a statement.
The cause of the crash that killed him and 13 others when the helicopter fell near a kindergarten is still under investigation.
US officials said Ukraine continues to face a tough battle against Russian forces, which occupy a fifth of the country 11 months after the invasion.
But they talked about a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the coming weeks to recapture parts of its territory.
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, pointed to the significant amount of equipment – much of it armored vehicles and artillery – promised to Ukraine at Ramstein, as well as the large-scale training of its forces by allies.
“I think it is quite possible for the Ukrainians to launch a major tactical or even operational offensive operation to liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible,” Milley said.
But the Kremlin warned on Friday that Western tanks would make little difference on the battlefield.
“One should not exaggerate the importance of such supplies in terms of their ability to change something,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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