Joe Biden has approved sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. The US had resisted providing its own M1 Abrams tanks, citing maintenance and logistical challenges with the hi-tech vehicles. Earlier, the US president had spoken by phone with leaders Emmanuel Macron of France, Olaf Scholz of Germany, Giorgia Meloni of Italy and Rishi Sunak of Britain. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked Biden for the “powerful decision” and described it as “an important step on the path to victory”.
Germany has confirmed it will make 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks available for Ukraine’s war effort. The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also said his government plans to send further military support to Ukraine beyond the tanks. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine welcomed the decision, and said he was “sincerely grateful” to Scholz.
The key to providing tanks for Ukraine’s defence against Russia was speed and sufficient numbers, Zelenskiy said on Wednesday. “The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support,” he said in his nightly video address.
By agreeing to send the Abrams, the US is able to meet Scholz’s demand for an American commitment but without having to send the tanks immediately. In public statements, Washington and Berlin had denied any connection between their respective decisions, although media reports said German officials had made clear in private that the Leopards were conditional on the US making a similar commitment.
Germany will also approve other European countries supplying German-made Leopard 2 tanks from their own stock. Finland, Spain and the Netherlands will contribute the same model, according to German media reports. A second battalion will be made up of Leopard 2A4 tanks from Poland and Norway.
Germany’s offer has prompted calls for more heavy armour by Ukraine’s government. Zelenskiy and his ministers are also seeking to break a “taboo” on the provision of jets such as US-made F16s. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he had spoken to Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, about further military aid, including fighter jets, a request that has been repeatedly put to Nato allies without success.
The Russian embassy in Germany has accused Berlin of taking the conflict in Ukraine “to a new level of confrontation”. The decision to approve the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine means the “final refusal” of the German government “to recognise its “historical responsibility” to Moscow, ambassador Sergei Nechayev said in a statement.
The Kremlin has downplayed the impact that western tanks will have, saying that the military aid to Ukraine would “burn like all the rest”. In remarks to reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the expected transfer of Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks to the Ukrainian army a “failed plan”.
Ukraine’s military spokesperson, Serhiy Cherevatyi, has said Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the eastern town of Soledar in the Donetsk region, according to the country’s state broadcaster Suspilne. The withdrawal of forces was made “in order to preserve the lives of service personnel”, he said. His comments are the first Ukrainian confirmation of Soledar’s capture by Russian forces.
One person was killed in Kherson oblast due to Russian shelling, six others were injured, 10 others were wounded in Donetsk oblast, according to Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne. It said over the past 24 hours, the Russian Federation carried out four missile and 26 airstrikes, as well as more than 100 shellings from multiple launch rocket systems in Ukraine.
In Ukraine, 15 senior officials have left their posts since Saturday, six of whom have had corruption allegations levelled at them by journalists and Ukraine’s anti-corruption authorities. On Wednesday prosecutor general Andriy Kostin signed orders on the voluntary dismissal of the heads of the Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy, and Chernihiv regional prosecutor’s offices. Oleksiy Kuleba, who was removed as governor of Kyiv on Tuesday, has been appointed deputy head of the president’s office as part of the reshuffle.