In an unusual form of public pressure, the foreign ministers of the Baltic states asked Germany to “immediately” deliver Leopard heavy tanks to Ukraine, invoking the country’s “special responsibility” as the EU’s “first power”.
However, Germany has been reluctant to send these tanks to Ukraine or to allow countries that possess them – and from which they need permission – to do so.
Recent press reports have indicated that Berlin will only agree to carry out deliveries if the US also sends Abrams tanks. But Washington also refuses to do so, citing reasons for maintenance and training.
Representatives of about 50 countries met on Friday at the American base in Ramstein, Germany, without reaching an agreement on sending heavy tanks.
Russia, in turn, said the eventual handover of the materials would not change anything on the battlefront and accused the West of maintaining an “illusion” of Ukraine’s victory in the conflict. However, for many experts, the use of modern heavy tanks may be in favor of Ukraine in the east, where Russia has regained the military initiative after suffering a series of setbacks.
And while hesitation remains, Ukrainians are desperate. “Indecision these days kills our citizens more,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhailo Podolyak warned in a tweet.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lamented his allies’ skepticism, saying, however, that he was convinced they had “no alternative” but to hand over modern tanks to bolster resistance to the Russian invasion, which began nearly eleven months ago.
On Saturday, Russia announced that it had conducted air defense exercises in the Moscow region, the country’s capital, to protect its vital infrastructure in the event of “air attacks”. The ministry did not detail the exact date on which the training took place.
At stake is the fact that the country has been the target of several attacks in its border regions in recent months, for which Ukraine bears responsibility.
In Kyiv, Zelensky and his wife attended the funeral of Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, who died Wednesday in a helicopter crash, along with 13 other people.
The act took place in a building near Maidan Square. A procession of soldiers brought seven coffins covered with the Ukrainian flag to the site.
Those present chanted “Glory to our heroes!” Among them are the families of the victims and several Ukrainian leaders. “Ukraine loses its best sons and daughters every day,” Zelensky said after the ceremony.
Russia is on the offensive
The Russian army, in turn, said that its forces launched an attack on the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhia, where fighting raged after months without movement on the front lines.
Russian forces reported “offensive operations” in the area and stated that they had “taken more advantageous lines and positions”. The Ukrainian forces already indicated in their morning bulletin that clashes took place in 12 cities in the region on Friday.
Currently, the largest clashes occur in the Donetsk region. Russian forces have focused their offensive on Bakhmut for weeks, with the support of the Wagner paramilitary group, which the United States classifies as an international “criminal organization”.
A senior US official said that the Ukrainian military should not attempt to defend Bakhmut at any cost, but instead focus on preparing for a major counterattack.
The point is that the city has become more of a symbol than its strategic importance. Zelensky recently visited the front lines to encourage his troops. Russia, for its part, is eager to occupy this city and put the setbacks of recent months behind it.
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