Germany signals shift in veto on Leopard tanks for Ukraine

PARIS/LVIV, Ukraine, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Poland will not stop Germany from sending its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Germany’s foreign minister said, hinting at a possible breakthrough for Ukraine as it tries to consolidate its power. the new Russian attack is expected.

Eleven months after Russia attacked its southern neighbor, the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine is at the center of the conflict, locked in a battle to hunt down mercenaries. Wagner’s war in Russia and the Ukrainian army.

Russia’s defense ministry said for the second day in a row on Sunday that its forces had strengthened their positions in the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, even as leaders told state media the Ukrainian army says the situation there is “difficult”.

Reuters could not independently verify accounts from the war.

Ukrainian officials have called on Western allies to supply them with modern German-made tanks for months but Germany has refused to send them or allow other NATO countries to do so.

The Leopard tanks, which are kept by several NATO countries but require Berlin’s approval to transfer them to Ukraine, are seen by defense experts as the most suitable for Ukraine.

Western allies last week pledged billions of dollars in arms to Ukraine, but failed to convince Germany to lift its veto on the tanks.

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But in a reversal of Germany’s position, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her government would not stop Poland from deploying Leopard 2 tanks without German approval.

“Because the question has not been asked, but if we are asked, we will not stop,” he told France’s LCI TV, when asked about his government’s reaction to any such Polish decision.

Germany has come under intense pressure to allow the Leopards into Ukraine but Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrat party is reluctant to commit troops and is concerned about a sudden move that could provoke Russia.

Baerbock’s remarks appeared to go further than Scholz’s comments at a conference in Paris last Sunday that any decision on arms deliveries would be made with allies. , including the United States.

Ukraine says the heavily armored tanks will give its troops greater mobility and protection ahead of a new Russian offensive expected next month.

But Germany appears to have linked such involvement to US moves to deploy Abrams tanks, something US officials have said they are reluctant to do because the vehicles are difficult to maintain.


US lawmakers on Sunday pushed their government to export M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, saying even a symbolic shipment would be enough to prompt European allies to do the same.

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Britain recently said it was supplying Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks. The foreign minister, James Cleverly, said on Sunday that an international agreement is still needed to give the German tanks to Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said he does not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks from Ukraine.

Last week, a Kremlin spokesman said that Western countries supplying Ukraine with additional tanks would not change the course of the war, but would only help the problems of the Ukrainian people.

A close aide of President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that the delivery of offensive weapons to Kyiv that threaten Russian territory would lead to a global catastrophe and opposed the use of weapons of mass destruction. cannot be controlled.

Vyacheslav Volodin, a spokesman for Russia’s lower house of parliament, warned that US and NATO support for Ukraine was leading the world to a “terrible war”.

Since its attack on February 24, which it sees as self-defense against an aggressive West, Russia has taken control of parts of Ukraine and said it would never give them back. Ukraine says the restoration of territorial integrity is not open to negotiation.

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In eastern Ukraine, a senior official in the occupied Donetsk region said Sunday evening that he had visited the town of Soledar, which Russia says it has captured. this month the senior official in the occupied area of ​​Donetsk region.

Denis Pushilin, the administrator, posted a short video on the messaging app Telegram that showed him driving a car, walking around a deserted area and destroying houses.

Reuters could not independently verify when and where the video was taken.

On January 11, the Russian independent military group Wagner said it had taken over Soledar and Russian-backed authorities in the Donetsk region said last week they were in control of the salt mining town.

Ukraine has never publicly said that the city was taken by Russian forces. On Sunday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces said in a daily news update that the Russian army fired on Ukrainian positions in the area.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Leigh Thomas; Additional reporting by Tom Sims, Lidia Kelly and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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