Ukraine wants “significantly” more Western weapons
Ukraine has called on the West to “significantly” increase its supply of weapons, especially heavy tanks, to defeat Russia’s military ahead of Thursday’s crucial meeting.
Instead, the Kremlin insisted that handing Kiev longer-range weapons capable of striking deep into Russian territory would lead to escalation, as a contact group on Ukraine met on Friday to coordinate continued Western military aid.
“We appeal to all partner states that have already provided or are planning to provide military assistance and call on them to significantly increase their contributions,” Ukrainian Defense and Foreign Ministers Oleksiy Reznikov and Dmitry Kouleba called in a joint statement.
In particular, they pointed the finger at twelve countries, particularly Germany and Turkey, urging them to supply German-made Leopard tanks, which Kiev desperately needed but whose supplies were uncertain due to German procrastination.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a video conference at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland and mocked those who said, “If someone else does it, I will deliver the tanks.”
“I don’t think it’s the right strategy,” he lamented, taking aim at Berlin, while also coming under increasing pressure from several European neighbors to allow delivery of the Leopards.
According to press reports, Berlin will deliver the heavy tanks if the US does the same with its Abrams. But according to a senior Pentagon official, Washington is not immediately ready to provide Ukraine with these powerful battle tanks.
– “Nothing good” –
The Leopards are among the modern, Western-designed heavy tanks that experts say are crucial to the ongoing and upcoming battles in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have also said they need longer-range missiles to be able to hit Russia’s supply chain, including ammunition depots.
But despite Ukraine’s assurances, Westerners fear that Kyiv could use these weapons to launch strikes on Russian territory and air and naval bases in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, escalating the war.
On Thursday, the Kremlin also issued a clear warning: the delivery of longer-range weapons “means the conflict will reach a new level” and “doesn’t bode well for European security.”
Nevertheless, according to the New York Times, the Biden administration is beginning to consider giving Ukraine the means to attack Crimea, since it is a key rear base for the war effort.
President Zelenskiy once again declared his desire to take back all occupied Ukrainian territories, including the peninsula.
On Friday, defense ministers and senior military officials from Western countries providing military aid to Ukraine will meet in the German city of Ramstein around US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to coordinate.
The UK has already pledged 14 Challenger 2 heavy tanks and Poland has said it is ready to send 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
But Ukraine needs several hundred of these vehicles to be able to attack in the East and South.
Especially after Russian forces, backed by the Wagner paramilitary group, redoubled their efforts to capture the town of Bakhmout in Donetsk region, which has been the scene of months of bloody fighting.
Over the past 15 days, Russian fighters have gained ground, capturing a large part of the nearby town of Soledar.
Throughout the autumn, especially thanks to the armament of the West, Ukraine inflicted a number of setbacks on the Kremlin forces, taking back the north-east and part of the south of the country.
– “Heavier, more modern” weapons –
In order to continue its counter-attacks, Kiev needs equipment, because “Russia maintains a significant quantitative advantage in terms of troops, weapons and military equipment,” MM reminded. Reznikov and Kouleba.
On Wednesday in Davos, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that member countries would provide “heavier and more modern” weapons.
Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel was in Kiev on Thursday to discuss new support measures with Mr Zelensky.
In Ukraine, the investigation continued the day after a helicopter crashed near Kyiv, killing Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky and at least 13 others.
Asked about the cause of the crash on Thursday, Mr. Zelenskiy declined to “talk about various hypotheses until the end of the investigation.”
On the humanitarian front, Mirjana Spoljaric, the new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is visiting Moscow on Thursday and Friday to meet with Russian government officials and discuss urgent humanitarian needs and access to prisoners of war.