Pressure builds to send tanks to Kyiv.Russian forces close in on Bakhmut

Kyiv’s main allies are set to meet in Germany on Friday as pressure is placed on Berlin to supply the Ukrainian army with German-made Leopard battle tanks.

Meanwhile, Russian sources continue to report battlefield gains after capturing the salt-mining town of Soledar in the Donetsk region on January 10.

Russian attack on Ukraine
In this screen grab released on January 8, 2023, tanks open fire in Soledar, Donetsk region, during a Russian attack on Ukraine. (Ukrainian National Border Guard/via Reuters)

New German Defense Minister Pledges Support

Just hours after taking the oath of office on January 19, newly appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius hosted a meeting with US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin.

During the meeting, Austin reportedly urged Pistorius to approve the transfer of German tanks to Ukraine.

Both Poland and Finland have promised to send Leopard tanks, widely used by NATO allies, if Berlin greenlights the move.

Britain has pledged to provide Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks and various other advanced strike equipment. If done, it would be the first delivery of Western-made tanks to Ukraine since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago.

Epoch Times photo
A Challenger 2 tank fires during an exercise tractable in Salisbury, England, March 19, 2015. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Allies meet in Germany

In Germany, the issue of sending tanks to Ukraine was controversial, and Berlin was slow to approve the move.

Pistorius’ predecessor, Christine Lambrecht, resigned on Monday amid pressure on her and her government to approve the delivery of tanks. Meanwhile, the Kremlin warns that Western-supplied tanks will “burn” on the battlefield and will be unable to turn the tide of battle.

After meeting with Austin, Pistorius emphasized Ukraine’s continued support “in the struggle for freedom and territorial independence and sovereignty”.

However, he did not mention the requested tank delivery.

Epoch Times photo
A U.S. Navy aircraft flies over the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, August 26, 2021. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Russia Claims More Interests in Donetsk

Meanwhile, Russian sources continue to report battlefield gains, particularly in the Donetsk region.

In September, Moscow incorporated Donetsk and three other regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation. Backed by powerful allies, Kyiv vowed to recover all its lost territories.

Russian forces fighting in Donetsk include the Donetsk People’s Militia and the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-led militia.

On 19 January, Wagner’s chief Evgeny Prigozhin claimed that his troops had captured Krysheevka, a village near the strategic town of Bakhmut.

“I can assure you that the settlement of Krysheevka … has been placed entirely under the control of the Wagner PMC unit,” Prigozhin said in a statement.

On January 20, the Russian Ministry of Defense also claimed that Russian forces had captured Kryshchivka.

The Epoch Times was unable to confirm the claim.

Kryshchivka is located about six miles south of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk in Russian), an important transport hub for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Control of Klishchiivka could pave the way for the siege of Bakhmut, thereby trapping Ukrainian forces in what Russian strategists call a “cauldron.”

Last week, Russian forces captured the town of Soledar, about five miles northeast of Bakhmut.

According to military experts, the fall of Bakhmut would disrupt Ukrainian supply lines and pave the way for a Russian advance on key Ukrainian positions in the northwest.

Epoch Times photo
Ukrainian soldiers in hiding in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine on September 25, 2022. (Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images)

Bakhmut: Wagner Chief has no quick fixes

Bakhmut is now surrounded by Russian forces on all but one side, according to the commander of the Moscow-backed Luhansk People’s Militia.

“Bakmut is approaching an operational blockade,” Apti Araudinov said in comments aired on 19 January.

He added: “The enemy is being held down from all sides.”

However, Wagner Group’s Prigozhin has dismissed reports that Ukrainian forces are now “fleeing” from the town.

“Contrary to various opinions that Ukrainian forces are fleeing Bakhmut, this is not the case,” he said, adding that Ukrainian forces in the region are well established.

As of this writing, Kyiv officials have yet to react to Russia’s alleged battlefield interests.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Adam Morrow

Adam Morrow covers the war between Russia and Ukraine for the Epoch Times.