DNIPRO, UKRAINE/KYIV—Ukraine on Tuesday came one step closer to a bid to acquire a fleet of modern tanks it hopes can turn the tide of the war with Russia. The agenda of that new defense minister.
In the central city of Dnipro, authorities have called for a halt to the search for survivors in the ruins of an apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile attack on Saturday.
Ukrainian officials say 44 people have been confirmed dead in the attack and 20 remain missing. 79 people were injured and 39 people were rescued from the rubble.
About 11 months after Russia invaded, Kyiv says a Western fleet of tanks will give its forces mobile firepower to drive them out in a decisive battle in 2023.
German-made Leopard tanks are the mainstay of armies across Europe and cannot be delivered without permission from Berlin.
Berlin has come under intense pressure this week to drop its objections after Western allies gathered at a US air base in Germany on Friday to pledge military support to Ukraine.
The decision is on the desk of Germany’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who was named Tuesday to replace Christine Lambrecht, who resigned after critics criticized him for being insensitive.
“When the defense minister is declared, this is the first question to be concretely decided,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told radio station Deutschlandfunk on Tuesday before the appointment was announced. Told.
Fear of escalating conflict
Pistorius, a local politician seen as close to Prime Minister Olaf Scholz, did not mention Ukrainian weapons in his initial comments on the job. He said, “It’s important to me to get the soldiers close and take them.”
Pistorius is scheduled to host U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday ahead of Friday’s Allied Conference at Ramstein Air Force Base.
Germany is cautious about approving weapons that could be seen as escalating conflict.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday, Scholz confirmed that talks with Germany’s allies about tanks are ongoing but should not be held in public.
The Kremlin said last week that new deliveries of weapons, including French-made armored vehicles, to Kyiv would “enhance the suffering of the Ukrainian people” and would not change the course of the conflict.
Vladimir Soloviev, a pro-Kremlin presenter on state television Russia 1, said Western countries that supplied Ukraine with more advanced weapons should be seen as legitimate targets for Russia.
Since President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to Ukraine on February 24, the United States and its allies have provided tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles and communication systems. rice field.
Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Valery Zaruzhny outlined the “urgent need” for his army during his first private meeting with US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley in Poland on Tuesday. said.
Poland and Finland have already said they would send the leopards if Berlin approved their re-export.
Separately, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told US President Joe Biden on Tuesday that the Netherlands would join the US and Germany in sending Patriot missiles to Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley said NATO allies were sending a clear message to Putin by increasing arms supplies to Ukraine.
“The message we are sending to Putin is that he has promised to help the Ukrainians until they are victorious,” Cleverly said at a forum at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
At a press conference, a senior Ukrainian official accused Russia of carrying out most of the more than 2,000 cyberattacks against Ukraine in 2022, saying it delayed itself because of the cyberattacks. There was no immediate comment on his claims from Moscow.
Memorial plush toy
Tens of thousands have been killed and millions have been forced from their homes since Russia launched a “special military operation” to eliminate security threats in Ukraine last February. Kyiv and his Western supporters are calling Russia’s actions eminent domain.
Ukrainian forces drove back Russian forces in late 2022, but much of the front line has been frozen in place over the past two months despite heavy losses on both sides in constant fighting. rice field.
Since October, Moscow has turned to a tactic of raining missiles on Ukrainian cities far from its front lines in the east and south, mainly targeting its power infrastructure.
Russia says it aims to reduce Ukraine’s combat capabilities. Kyiv said the attack was intended to harm civilians, a war crime, and not for military purposes.
In Dnipro, residents left flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift memorial near an apartment building ravaged by Saturday’s series of missile attacks.
Hundreds of mourners bid farewell to boxing coach Mikhail Korenovsky, who died in the strike. The footage showed the kitchen in his apartment, decorated in bright yellow, exposed to the air after the exterior walls had been removed.
In a recent family video shot in the same kitchen, Korenovsky’s daughter smiled as she blew out four birthday cake candles while standing behind her, holding another child in her arms.
Moscow denied intentionally targeting civilians and blamed Ukrainian air defense systems for the missile that hit the apartment building. Kyiv says Ukraine was hit by a notoriously inaccurate Russian anti-ship missile with no defenses.
By Herbert Villarraga and Tom Balmforth