Ukraine calls on the West to “stop trembling before Putin”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking via video conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 18, 2023 (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Ahead of a crucial meeting on Thursday, Ukraine called on the West to “stop cowering before Putin” and “significantly” increase supplies of weapons, including heavy tanks, to defeat Russia’s military.

Instead, Russia insisted that the transfer to Kiev of longer-range weapons capable of striking deep into its territory would prompt a contact group on Ukraine to meet on Friday to coordinate ongoing 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 Oleksia Reznikov and Dmitry Kouleba said 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 says it desperately needs, but whose supplies are uncertain due to German procrastination.

Speaking via video conference on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday mocked those who said, “+ if someone else does it, I’ll deliver the tanks” in an apparent reference to Germany.

Berlin is also under increasing pressure from a number of European neighbors to allow the delivery of the leopards.

“Against thousands of tanks coming from Russia (…) the courage of our army and the motivation of the Ukrainian people are not enough,” Mr. Zelensky said while receiving the President of the Council of the European Union Charles Michel in Kyiv.

Soon after, one of the advisers to the president, Mykhailo Podoliak, called on the West to “stop trembling before Putin” and deliver the armored vehicles that Ukraine needs.

“Nothing Good”

Leopard 2A4
Leopard 2A4 (Guillermo RIVAS PACHECO/AFP)

The German-made 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 also say they need missile systems with a range of more than 100 km to be able to hit Russian supply chains, including ammunition depots.

But despite Ukraine’s assurances, Westerners fear that Kyiv could use the weapons to launch strikes on Russian territory and air and naval bases in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, triggering an escalation.

On Thursday, the Kremlin also issued a clear warning: delivery of longer-range weapons “would mean a new level of conflict” and “does not bode well for European security.”

Nevertheless, according to the daily New York Times, the Joe Biden administration is beginning to think about the possibility of giving Ukraine the means to attack Crimea, since it is a key rear base for Russia’s war effort.

President Zelenskiy once again declared his desire to take back all occupied Ukrainian territories, including the peninsula.

On Friday, defense ministers and high-ranking military officials of Western countries that provide military aid to Ukraine are gathering around US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Ramstein, Germany.

Ahead of the meeting, London pledged on Thursday to supply an additional 600 Brimstone missiles, Denmark to Ukraine 19 French-made Caesar weapons and Sweden to Archer self-propelled guns. All these systems have a range of several tens of kilometers, but this is less than what the Ukrainians claim.

Russia’s advantage

Firefighters near the site of a helicopter crash in Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 18, 2023.
Firefighters near the site of a helicopter crash in Brovary, outside Kiev, Ukraine on January 18, 2023 (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Britain has already pledged 14 Challenger 2 heavy tanks and Poland has said it is ready to send 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks, far short of the hundreds of such vehicles Ukraine says it needs to launch offensives in the East and Far East. South.

In turn, Russian forces backed by the private paramilitary group “Wagner” are intensifying their efforts to capture the town of Bakhmout in the Donetsk region, which has been the subject 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.

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.

A helicopter crash site in Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 18, 2023
The crash site of a helicopter in Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 18, 2023 (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)

In Ukraine, the investigation was continued after the helicopter crash near Kyiv, which killed Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky and at least 13 people.

Asked about the cause of the crash on Thursday, Mr. Zelenskiy declined to “talk about various hypotheses until the end of the investigation.”

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