Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskyy criticizes German tank hesitation

Thursday, 19 January 2023 (17:10 IST)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticised German government hesitation to supply modern Leopard tanks again, with reports indicating Berlin will only provide them if the US offers its Abrams tanks as well. 
On Thursday, Zelenskyy, via video conference, told a panel that included Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the former UK leader Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he "would like to thank again our partners."
He added, "At the same time, here are times where we shouldn't hesitate or shouldn't compare. When someone says, 'I will give tanks if someone else will also share tanks.' I don't think this is the right strategy to go with."
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, also urged Western allies to hurry up and supply tanks and air defences to Kyiv. He said Ukraine was paying in lives at the front for the slow pace of discussions in foreign capitals.
"We have no time, the world does not have this time," Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly told a US Congressmen in Davos that Germany will supply heavy tanks to Ukraine if the US sends tanks too.
After meeting Scholz on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, US Congressman Gregory Meeks, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the German leader wanted the two countries to work in tandem.
"It's basically that it's got to be the United States and Germany. There's no question about that," Meeks said. "It was clear to me that the United States and Germany were having dialogue and conversations and that they were going to lock and stay together."
Scholz is under increasing pressure from his European allies to authorize the export of the German-made Leopard tanks ahead of a meeting of Ukraine's allies on Friday to discuss new arms supplies.
Ukraine's foreign and defense ministers also urged Kyiv's Western allies to "considerably" boost arms deliveries to their war-torn country. They called on countries that have Leopard tanks, including Germany and Turkey, to send them to Ukraine.
"We appeal to all partner states that have already provided military assistance or are planning to provide it with a call to considerably reinforce their practical contribution to strengthening Ukraine's ability to defend itself," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a joint statement.
At Davos, Zelenskyy also said that there were "several" theories being investigated to explain a helicopter crash that killed the country's interior minister and 13 others on Wednesday near Kyiv.
"The investigation is ongoing. There are several theories and I'm not authorised to talk about any of them until the investigation is finished," Zelenskyy said.
US, German defense ministers to meet before Ramstein meeting
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will press Germany's new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius to allow for the transfer of German-made tanks to Ukraine, US officials said, as the two countries remained at loggerheads over the issue.
Germany will allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defense against Russia if the US agrees to send its own tanks, a German government source told Reuters.
US officials publicly and privately insist that Washington has no plans to send US-made tanks to Ukraine for now, arguing that they would be too difficult for Kyiv to maintain and would require a huge logistical effort to simply run.
"The Secretary will be pressing the Germans on this," one senior US defense official told Reuters.
The US official added that supplying Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks made the most sense as a number of countries already had them and were willing to transfer them quickly.
A second US official said President Joe Biden's administration was set to approve a new aid package to Ukraine, worth more than $2 billion (€1.85 billion).
The package, which could be announced as early as Friday during a meeting of defense leaders at the Ramstein airbase in Germany, will likely include Stryker armored vehicles for Kyiv, but not M1 Abrams tanks.
The USS has committed roughly $24 billion in aid to Ukraine to defend itself against Russian forces.
German President pledges Ukraine support
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier promised further military support to Ukraine and cautioned incoming Defense Minister Boris Pistorius that Germany's armed forces must once again become capable of protecting the nation.
Steinmeier said at a ceremony to appoint Pistorius that Russia's attack on Ukraine has destroyed the old European security order. He also stressed that Germany would continue to support Ukraine militarily and would help "in the reconstruction of a battered country."
"Germany is not at war, but the years of the peace dividend from which we Germans have benefited so long and abundantly are over," Steinmeier said. 
"We have to respond to threats that also target us," Steinmeier added.
Pentagon asks US forces in South Korea to supply materiel
The US Department of Defense has asked its forces stationed in South Korea to provide equipment to help Ukraine in the war against Russia. The move has "zero impact" on its operations in the Asian country, the military said in a statement.
The US has some 28,500 troops in South Korea. The Defense Department said the move is part of US efforts to help Ukraine with its inventories.
The US declined to provide further details, including what types of equipment and how much has been requested or already transferred.
The statement comes after The New York Times reported earlier this week the United States was diverting munitions stored in Israel and South Korea to Ukraine for use in the war against Russia. 
EU's Charles Michel arrives to Kyiv
EU chief Charles Michel is in Kyiv to discuss with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy what "concrete measures" Europe can take to support Ukraine.
"I am on my way to Kyiv," Michel said earlier in a video he posted on his Twitter account. He added he would meet Zelenskyy as well as the prime minister and members of parliament. 
The European Council president also said he would "discuss with president Zelenskyy and his team what are the concrete measures we can develop in order to make sure they are stronger and more powerful."
Michel hailed the Ukrainians "fighting for their land, they are fighting for their future and the future of their children."
"But we all know that they are also fighting for our common European values and principles, and also for the promise of the European Union peace and prosperity," he said. "They need and they deserve our support."
Medvedev warns again of nuclear war 
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the "defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war." 
He was referring to what Russian President Vladimir Putin only recently referred to as a "war" in Ukraine. Previously, the Russian state had adhered to the euphemistic "special military operation."
In a post on Telegram discussing NATO support for the Ukrainian military, Medvedev said, "Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends."
It was the latest in a long line of shocking and provocative statements from Medvedev, who was once seen as a Western-leaning reformer but has reinvented himself as an arch-hawk since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
Wagner boss heralds Bakhmut area advances, warns victory still distant
The founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin said that his forces had taken the village of Klishchiivka, on the edge of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. However, he added that Ukrainian forces could not be forced from Bakhmut swiftly.
Klishchiivka, which had a pre-war population of around 400 people, is located around 6 miles (9 kilometers) from the city of Bakhmut, where Wagner units have been locked in a months-long battle of attrition with Ukrainian forces.
Prigozhin warned, "Contrary to various opinions that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are fleeing from Artemovsk," the Russian name for Bakhmut, "This is not so. The Ukrainian army is working clearly and harmoniously. We have a lot to learn from them."
Estonian support to Ukraine will amount to more than 1% of GDP
The Estonian government will provide Ukraine with the largest military aid package to date, bringing the total amount of defense aid to more than 1% of the Baltic state's GDP, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reported. 
The latest military aid package announced by Estonia consists of howitzers, ammunition, artillery support equipment as well as grenade launchers, according to a press release.
The total recovery value of the package is approximately €113 million ($122 million), which will increase Estonia's military assistance to Ukraine to €370 million, or slightly more than 1% of Estonia's GDP.
According to the public broadcaster, the latest package will include dozens of 155 mm and 122 mm howitzers as well as military trucks and thousands of shells to use with them. 
Additionally, Estonia will provide more than 100 Carl-Gustaf anti-tank recoilless rifles and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

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