Minister: Germany will not prevent Poland from giving tanks to Ukraine

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Kiev, Ukraine –

The German government will not object if Poland decides to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, Germany’s top diplomat said on Sunday, noting that Kyiv is making arms shipments which Kyiv has described as essential to its ability to launch a Russian offensive to repel it.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French TV channel LCI that Poland had not officially sought Berlin’s consent to share some of its German-made Leopards, but added: “If we had come requested, we will not be hindered.” “

German officials “know how important these tanks are” and “that’s why we are now discussing this with our partners,” Baerbock said in the interview footage posted by LCI.

Ukrainian supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday. International defense leaders discussed Ukraine’s urgent request for Leopard 2 tanks, and the failure to reach an agreement overshadowed the new commitments.

Germany is one of the top arms donors to Ukraine and has ordered a review of its Leopard 2 holdings in preparation for a possible green light. Still, the government in Berlin has shown caution in any move to increase its military aid to Ukraine, a reluctance believed to be rooted in its history and political culture.

Germany’s reluctance has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel particularly threatened by renewed Russian aggression.

The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that his country was ready to form a “smaller coalition” of countries that will send their tanks anyway if the NATO and EU counterparts do not agree with the deployment of Leopard tanks in -Ukraine.

“Almost a year has passed since the war broke out,” Morawiecki said in an interview with Polish state news agency PAP published on Sunday. “Evidence of the war crimes of the Russian army can be seen on TV and YouTube. What more does Germany need to open its eyes and act according to the possibilities of the German state?”

Earlier, some officials in Poland had indicated that Finland and Denmark were also ready to send leopards to Ukraine.

Earlier on Sunday, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the head of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that governments supplying more powerful weapons to Ukraine risked creating ” a global tragedy that destroys their countries”.

“Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kiev regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” Volodin said. “If Washington and NATO provide weapons to attack peaceful cities and try to invade our territory, as they threaten, this will cause retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said Sunday that he has asked his defense minister to “work” on the idea of ​​sending some of France’s Leclerc main battle tanks to Ukraine.

Macron spoke to Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a press conference in Paris as France and Germany celebrated the 60th anniversary of their post-WWII friendship treaty. In a joint statement, the two countries pledged their “unwavering support” for Ukraine.

France will make its tank decision based on three criteria, Macron said: the sharing of equipment will not lead to an escalation of the conflict, it will provide efficient and viable assistance, taking into account training time , and will not weaken France’s own military.

When asked about the Leopard 2 tanks on Sunday, Scholz did not answer, but stressed that his country had already made significant military contributions to Ukraine.

“The United States is doing a lot, Germany is also doing a lot,” he said. “We have continuously expanded our supplies with highly effective weapons that are already available today. And all these decisions have always been closely coordinated with our main allies and friends.”

In Washington on Sunday, two top lawmakers urged the United States to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine to overcome Germany’s reluctance to share its own more suitable tanks.

“If we announce that we are giving an Abrams tank, just one, that will stop the flow of tanks out of Germany,” said the Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “What I hear is that Germany is waiting for us to take the lead.”

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also supported the US sending Abrams.

“If we need to send some Abrams tanks to exploit the Leopard tanks from Germany, Poland or other allies, I support that,” Coons said.

Dmitry Medvedev, Vice Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Friday’s US-led meeting at the air base in Germany “left no doubt that our enemies will try exhaust us, or rather destroy us,” adding that “they have enough guns”. achieve the purpose.

Medvedev, a former Russian President, warned that “in the event of a long-term conflict,” Russia may seek to form a military alliance with “those nations that are fed up with the Americans and their pack of sterilized dogs .”

Ukraine has argued that it needs more weapons as it expects Russian forces to launch a new offensive in the spring.

Oleksii Danilov, the secretary of the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, warned that Russia may try to increase its attacks in the south and east and cut off the supply channels of the Western weapons while the capture of Kiev is “the main dream” of President Vladimir Putin remains “fantasy”, he said.

In a column of the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. He described the Kremlin’s goal in the conflict as “total and absolute genocide, a total war of destruction.”

Among those who asked for more weapons for Ukraine was former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Sunday. Johnson, seen in the city of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region, said he traveled to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“This is the moment to double down and give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement.

Last week was particularly tragic for Ukraine, even by the standards of a brutal war that has lasted almost a year, killing tens of thousands of people, uprooting millions more and causing tremendous destruction on Ukrainian cities.

A barrage of Russian missiles hit an apartment complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on January 14, killing at least 45 civilians. On Wednesday, a government helicopter crashed into a building that housed a kindergarten in a suburb of Kiev. Among the 14 dead were the Interior Minister of Ukraine, other officials and a child on the ground.

Zelenskyy promised on Sunday that Ukraine would ultimately win the war.

“We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united,” the Ukrainian leader said in a video address on the occasion of Ukraine’s Unification Day, which commemorates the unification of Eastern and Western Ukraine in 1919.

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Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Emily Schultheis in Berlin contributed.

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