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War in Ukraine, Day 331 | ‘No other solution’ than sending heavy tanks to Kyiv, says Zelensky

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(Ramstein Air Base) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that there was “no other solution” than for the West to send heavy tanks to his country, while the Kyiv allies did not decided nothing at a meeting in Ramstein, Germany.

“Yes, we will still have to fight for the supply of modern tanks, but every day we make it more evident that there is no other solution than making a decision on tanks,” said Mr. Zelensky said in his evening speech via video.

“Our partners have a principled attitude – they will support Ukraine as much as necessary for our victory,” he continued.

Gathered on the American military base of Ramstein in Germany, the Western allies of Ukraine did not manage to agree on the delivery of heavy tanks, in particular for lack of green light from Germany.

The Germans “have not made up their mind on the Leopard tanks,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin soberly declared after a meeting of Westerners at the US base in Ramstein, Germany.


PHOTO ANDRE PAIN, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

Kyiv’s expectations were high before this meeting of around fifty countries intended to coordinate the military aid of the allies against the Russian invasion.

Experts say modern, Western-designed heavy tanks would be a crucial advantage for Kyiv in the looming battles in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is back on the offensive after suffering heavy setbacks this winter.

Poland and Finland have offered to deliver German-made Leopard tanks, but any shipment of such armaments must receive the green light from Berlin, which is reluctant to do so at this stage.

But on this thorny subject, “the positions are far from being as homogeneous as one might think”, assured on the sidelines of the meeting the new German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius.


PHOTO ANDRE PAIN, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius

Mr. Pistorius, in office only since Thursday, however denied the “impression” that his country was blocking the decision, ensuring that Berlin was acting and launching an inventory of Leopard stocks available to its army and industry.

The US Secretary of Defense came to Berlin’s aid, calling it a “reliable ally”.

“But we can do everything more” to help Kyiv, he told the press.

At the opening of the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had urged the allies to speed up their deliveries of heavy weapons.

“It is in your power” to “launch a major supply that will stop evil,” he said via video link.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov immediately replied that this would not change anything on the ground, accusing Western states of maintaining the “illusion” of a possible Ukrainian victory “on the battlefield”.

Kyiv counter-offensive in the spring

However, things could change in the coming weeks.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak thus declared himself “convinced” that the allies will eventually succeed in creating a coalition to deliver Leopards to Ukraine.

“We have a window of opportunity here between now and the spring,” when Ukraine will begin “its counter-offensive,” Austin said.

Until then, the various additional military aid packages recently promised by several countries offer the Ukrainian forces “the capacity they need to achieve success” on the ground, judged the head of the Pentagon.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and even Denmark announced substantial new arms deliveries a few hours before the meeting.

Washington will thus release a tranche of 2.5 billion dollars, including 59 Bradley armored vehicles, which will be added to the 50 light armored vehicles of this type promised on January 6, and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, according to the Pentagon. But no Abrams heavy tanks.


PHOTO BADERKHAN AHMAD, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

An American Bradley Armored

The United Kingdom has pledged to send Ukraine 600 additional Brimstone missiles, Denmark 19 French-made Caesar guns, and Sweden Archer self-propelled guns.

Finland on Friday announced military aid of 400 million euros to Ukraine, its largest contribution to date, which includes artillery and ammunition.

“From a military point of view, […] it will be very difficult to expel Russian forces from all occupied areas of Ukraine this year,” General Mark Milley warned Ramstein.


PHOTO ANDRE PAIN, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

US General Mark Milley

“High Intensity” Fights

On Friday, the besieged city of Bakhmout (East), the current epicenter of the fighting, was again violently bombarded, AFP journalists noted.





“Look, look, this is my apartment, this is the only apartment I have”, lamented Olga Tomak, 70, contemplating with Mykola, her husband, her building burning after a strike.

The Russian occupation authorities said they noted a “sharp increase in the intensity” of fighting in the Zaporizhia region in the south, where clashes are taking place “along the entire front line”.

Westerners fear in particular that Kyiv will cause an escalation by using these weapons to strike deep into Russian territory and the air and naval bases of Crimea, a peninsula annexed in 2014 by Russia.

Meanwhile, the UN announced on Friday the arrival of a first humanitarian convoy in the vicinity of Soledar, a town in eastern Ukraine whose capture was claimed last week by the Russian army and mercenaries. of the Wagner group.

The Ukrainian security services (SBU) have also claimed to have arrested “seven Russian agents” in the Dnipro region (East), suspected of spying for Moscow and possibly being involved in the attack on a building. housing in this city which had killed at least 45 people, including six children.



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