Germany is facing backlash from allies over its reluctance to provide Leopard 2 tanks to bolster Ukraine’s combat capability in its nearly year-long war with Russia.
On Friday, 50 countries agreed to supply Kiev with billions of dollars in military hardware, including armored vehicles and ammunition needed to push back Russian troops.
But German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters at US Ramstein Air Base in Germany that despite heightened expectations “we still cannot say when a decision will be made and what the decision will be when it comes to the Leopard tank”.
Ukraine on Saturday denounced its allies’ “global indecisiveness” in delivering modern heavy tanks, saying “today’s indecisiveness 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 Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who said the tanks were essential to Ukraine’s struggle 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 supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine now”.
“This is necessary to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and quickly restore peace in Europe. Germany, as the leading European power, has a special responsibility in this regard,” the statement said. tweeted by the Latvian Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs.
Berlin was hesitant to send the leopards or allow other countries to transfer them to Kiev, with reports earlier this week that it would only agree if the US supplied its tanks as well. Washington has said delivering its Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not feasible, citing difficulties in training and maintenance.
But ahead of Friday’s meeting of the Ukrainian contact group of about 50 US-led countries at Ramstein Air Base, expectations had grown that Germany would at least agree to let other countries exporting Leopards send them to Kiev’s military. convey.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina visiting Kiev, called on both sides to provide 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 US tanks so that others will follow our lead,” he said tweeted.
The pleas came as the Russian military said its troops had launched an offensive in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of a near-frozen front.
In their daily report on Saturday, Moscow troops said they had conducted “offensive operations” in the region and claimed to have “occupied more advantageous lines and positions”.