Ukraine expects decision on tanks at Western Defense Summit

KIEV/BERLIN—Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky said the Ukrainian government expects defense leaders from NATO and other countries to meet on Friday to discuss increasing Ukraine’s ability to counter Russian forces with modern tanks. said he expects

The meeting at Germany’s Ramstein air base was the latest in a series since Russia invaded Ukraine about 11 months ago, and it will be the latest in a series of future weapons supplies, particularly German ones used by armies across Europe. The Leopard 2 tank will be discussed.

Berlin has veto power over any decision to export tanks, and the government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears reluctant to allow it so far for fear of provoking Russia. .

While some allies argue that Berlin’s concerns are irrelevant as Russia is already fully involved in the war, Russia argues that Western arms transfers will prolong the conflict and cause pain in Ukraine. It is repeatedly stated that it increases the

Both Ukraine and Russia rely primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, hundreds of which were destroyed during the war started by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 last year, leaving Russia and Russia We call it a “special military operation” to protect. speaker.

Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of a unilateral war to seize territory and obliterate the independence of the former Soviet Union and its neighbors. Western countries have a steady supply of arms to Ukraine.

“In fact, we are currently waiting for a decision from a European capital to activate the chain of cooperation prepared on tanks,” Zelensky said in a video speech Thursday night.

“We are preparing for the Ramstein Conference tomorrow. We expect a strong decision. We expect a strong military aid package from the United States,” he said.

US military support

The US on Thursday announced new military aid to Ukraine worth up to $2.5 billion, including hundreds of armored vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defenses.

The support includes 59 Bradley combat vehicles and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, according to a Pentagon statement. In total, the United States has pledged more than $27.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion began.

German government sources said Berlin would tackle the Leopard tank issue if Washington agreed to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Abrams tanks were not included in Thursday’s announcement by the United States.

However, Germany’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius previously said he was unaware of the requirement for Ukraine to receive U.S. and German tanks at the same time.

“I am not aware of any such provision,” Pistorius said when asked by Germany’s ARD TV if it meant that Abrams and Leopard had to be handed over at the same time.

CIA director’s visit

Western Ukrainian allies want to avoid the appearance of NATO confronting Russia directly, and have objected to sending their most powerful weapons to the Kyiv government.

Zelensky told ARD TV on Thursday that Ukraine needed tanks to defend itself and retake occupied territories and had no plans to attack Russia.

“From Washington to London, from Paris to Warsaw, we hear that Ukraine needs tanks. Tanks are the key to ending the war properly. It’s time to step out,” Zelensky’s adviser Mikhaylo Podoljak wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, CIA Director William Burns secretly traveled to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to meet with Zelensky, a US official told Reuters on Thursday.

The official did not say when the visit took place. The Washington Post, which first reported the visit, said the visit took place over the weekend. The Post said Burns explained to Zelensky his expectations of Russia’s military plans.

Ukrainian military officials said on Thursday night that fighting was most intense in the strategic industrial area known as Donbass, on the border with Russia in eastern Ukraine.

The Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Russian troops had shelled the main Russian target, the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk Oblast, which together with Luhansk Oblast forms Donbass. Soledar, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Bakhmut, was also attacked. Russian forces say they are in control of Soleda, but Ukrainian sources say their troops are still fighting in Soleda.

“Ukrainian forces have effectively stabilized the front line around Bakhmut,” Ukrainian military analyst Ole Zdanov said on YouTube.

“Today, Russia is turning Soledar into a military stronghold.

Reuters was unable to confirm the battlefield report.

Tom Balmforth