Ukraine welcomes German tank move as ‘first step
Ukraine has welcomed as a “first step” Germany’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to aid in its fight against Russia’s invasion.
Allies hailed the announcement as the “right decision”, which came after weeks of reluctance in Berlin and international pressure.
Russia said the “extremely dangerous” move would escalate the conflict and that the tanks would “burn”.
Ukraine says it needs heavy weapons to take back territory from Russia.
Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, urged Germans who are worried about the move to trust him, insisting that it was right to support Ukraine.
Addressing Berlin’s previous hesitance to send tanks, the chancellor told MPs in the Bundestag that it was “right that we didn’t just get swept up”.
Mr Scholz said Germany would deliver 14 of the vehicles as a “first step”, but that its goal was to assemble two battalions of them for Ukraine.
Germany also allowed other countries, including Poland, to pass on their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine’s front line – which was restricted until now under export regulations.
Despite previous accusations of foot-dragging by Chancellor Scholz, Germany is in the top three single donors of military aid and one of the main providers of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden’s administration is also expected to announce plans on Wednesday to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks.
There had been speculation in the past weeks that the German chancellor’s decision to send tanks was conditional on the US doing the same.
Why Germany delayed sending tanks to Ukraine
Russia’s ambassador in Washington said the possible deliveries of battle tanks were “another blatant provocation”.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that the Abrams battle tanks would “burn like all the rest”, dismissing the proposed shipments as “just very expensive”.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said he was “sincerely grateful” for the tanks Germany decided to send – calling the decision “important” and “timely”.
He said the move was a “green light for partners to supply similar weapons.”
While the acquisition of tanks from the West would be considered a diplomatic coup for President Zelensky, he said in his address on Tuesday night that his country will need even more tanks than has been promised so far.