Kyiv voices frustration at ‘global indecision’ as allies say Leopard 2s needed now to stop Russian assault
21 Jan 2023
Germany is facing a backlash from allies over its reluctance to supply Leopard 2 tanks to bolster Ukraine’s fighting capacity in the nearly year-long war with Russia.
On Friday, 50 countries agreed to provide Kyiv with billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware, including armoured vehicles and munitions needed to push back Russian forces.
But the German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, told reporters at the US Ramstein airbase in Germany that despite heightened expectations, “we still cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be, when it comes to the Leopard tank”.
Ukraine on Saturday denounced the “global indecision” of its allies in providing heavy-duty modern tanks, saying “today’s indecision is killing more of our people”.
“Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster,” tweeted presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.
Several allies echoed the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in saying the tanks were essential to Ukraine’s fight with its much larger neighbour.
In a joint statement – and a rare public criticism of Europe’s top power – the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania said they “call on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now”.
“This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly. Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard,” said the statement, tweeted by the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs.
Berlin has been hesitant to send the Leopards or allow other countries to transfer them to Kyiv, with reports earlier in the week saying it would agree to do so only if the US provided its tanks as well. Washington has said providing its Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not feasible, citing difficulties in training and maintenance.
But expectations had grown ahead of Friday’s Ukraine contact group meeting of about 50 US-led countries at Ramstein airbase that Germany would at least agree to let other countries operating Leopards transfer them to Kyiv’s army.
The US senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is visiting Kyiv, called on both sides to supply the machines.
“To the Germans: send tanks to Ukraine because they need them. It is in your own national interest that Putin loses in Ukraine.
“To the Biden administration: send American tanks so that others will follow our lead,” he tweeted.
The pleas came as the Russian army said its troops had launched an offensive in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of an almost frozen front.
In its daily report on Saturday, Moscow’s forces said they had carried out “offensive operations” in the region and claimed to have “taken more advantageous lines and positions”.