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Ukraine Requests Fighter Jets After Germany Offers Leopard Tanks

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Germany offered 14 Leopard tanks, which prompted the Ukrainian government to ask for fighter jets and more heavy armour from the west. At the same time, the Ukrainian government officially announced that its troops were leaving the eastern town of Soledar after nine months of bloody combat.

Kyiv was happy about Berlin’s decision and reports that the US was getting ready to send its own Abrams tanks. However, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his ministers are also trying to break a “taboo” about giving jets like US-made F16s.

Moment Volodymyr Zelenskiy discovers Germany approved sending tanks to Ukraine during the interview. (Video by: The Guardian)

“truly grateful to the chancellor and all our friends.”

– Volodymyr Zelenskly

Berlin’s decision could make it possible for Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, and Norway to offer to give Ukraine their own German-made Leopard 2A6 tanks. This would partially meet Ukraine’s request for more tanks.

Germany said that, with the exception of Poland, no one had yet asked for permission to re-export Leopard 2 tanks, but that other countries would likely talk about their plans in the coming hours and days.

Dmytro Kuleba, who is the foreign minister of Ukraine, said, “So the tank coalition is formed. Whoever thought this couldn’t happen can now see that for Ukraine and its partners, “impossible” is nothing. I’m asking all new partners who have Leopard 2 tanks to join the coalition and give as many as they can. They are free now.”

Later, Kuleba said he had talked to Zbigniew Rau, Poland’s foreign minister, about more military help, including fighter jets. This is a request that has been made to NATO allies many times without success.

Yuriy Sak, who advises Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, also said that fighter jets would be “the next big hurdle.”

“If we get them, they will give us huge advantages on the battlefield,” he said. “It isn’t only F-16s. This is what we want: planes from the fourth generation.”

Calls for US-made jets haven’t been answered in the past, but the Dutch government recently said it might consider giving some of its 50 planes to allies. Ukraine’s air force has only been able to get planes and parts from the Soviet Union up until now.

Zelenskiy said that he had talked to Olaf Scholz about Berlin’s decision about tanks and that he was “truly grateful to the chancellor and all our friends.”

He tweeted, “German main battle tanks, further expansion of defence support and training missions, and the go-ahead for partners to supply similar weapons.” “Just got off the phone with Olaf Scholz, and he told me about these important and well-timed decisions. Sincerely thankful to the chancellor and all of our German friends.”

The head of Zelenskiy’s office, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram that more tanks were needed: “We need a lot of Leopards.”

Guardian graphic. Source: The International Institute for Strategic Studies. Note: *Austria and Switzerland are not Nato members.

Zelenskiy, who turned 45 on Wednesday, has said before that 300 tanks are needed to change the course of the war in Ukraine after 11 months of fighting.

Western officials think that sending 100 tanks could be enough to make the difference between losing ground to a Russian offensive in the spring and keeping it. In three months, the first batch of Leopard 2 tanks is due to arrive.

Guardian graphic. Source: KMW, Tanks Encyclopedia.com, Military-today.com. Note: Leopard 2 A4 shown

The fact that Ukraine’s defence ministry said its forces were leaving Soledar in the east of the Donbas region “to protect the lives of personnel” was a reminder of how big of a challenge they were facing.

Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for the eastern forces of Ukraine, said, “We have dug in on defence lines that were already set up [to the west].”

Cherevaty said that Ukraine’s forces had “knocked out the maximum forces, mostly the manpower of the personnel, exhausted the enemy” in the fights against Russian troops in the area, which are mostly made up of soldiers from the private Wagner group.

The general staff of the Ukrainian army said on Wednesday that their troops had killed 910 Russian soldiers in the last 24 hours.

The Russians may be one step closer to taking or at least encircling the city of Bakhmut because of this, though. The pro-Russian news site Readovka said that “two or three” supply routes to the city had already been cut. However, a Washington think tank called the Institute for the Study of War said earlier this month that they thought the Kremlin had overstated the strategic importance of Soledar.

Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, said that he thought giving tanks to Ukraine could help it “defend itself, win, and prevail.”

Info source – The Guardian

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