The essentials in brief:
- Chancellor Scholz discusses decision-making in the Bundestag
- The Russian embassy sharply criticized the tank delivery
- Melnyk on tank deliveries: “should only be the first step”
- Leopard deliveries are not without consequences for the Bundeswehr
- Zelenskyj on the corruption scandal: “Layoffs are necessary”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has defended the federal government’s decision to send Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine in the Bundestag. In providing military support to Ukraine, Germany is acting on the principle of making what is necessary possible while at the same time avoiding an escalation into a NATO-Russia confrontation. “We will continue to observe this principle.”
Scholz also rejected allegations that Germany had done too little to provide military support to Ukraine. “Germany will always be at the fore when it comes to supporting Ukraine,” he promised. According to him, Germany, together with Great Britain, is the largest arms supplier to Ukraine after the USA.
Allies want to send a total of 90 tanks
Scholz had announced in the cabinet in the morning that Ukraine would receive 14 Leopard 2 main battle tanks from the Bundeswehr stocks. Together with allies, around 90 Leopard tanks are to be sent to Ukraine to support the country in its defense against Russia. Months of debate preceded the decision.
In addition, the German government has given other states permission to supply their own Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers should be quickly trained on the tanks in Germany. This was announced by government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in Berlin. The package also included ammunition, logistics and maintenance of the systems. Government circles said that – contrary to what was initially thought – there were also plans to supply spare parts for the Leopard tanks.
The Russian embassy sharply criticized the decision
The Russian embassy in Berlin has sharply criticized the German announcement to deliver main battle tanks to Ukraine. “Berlin’s decision to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv is extremely dangerous because it takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation,” Ambassador Sergei Nechayev said, according to a press release. The decision contradicts the announcements by German politicians that they do not want to be drawn into the conflict.
Germany and its western partners are not interested in a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Rather, it relies on escalation, criticized Netchayev. The Federal Republic has thus given up its historical responsibility towards Russia.
Positive reactions from allies
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the federal government’s decision. The move supports France’s announced delivery of AMX10-RC tanks, the Presidential Office said.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was also pleased with Germany’s decision. “Thank you @Chancellor Olaf Scholz,” wrote Morawiecki on Twitter. The delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the decision by Germany and other countries to supply main battle tanks to Ukraine “the right decision,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Netherlands and Spain, for their part, announced that they also want to deliver Leopard tanks to Kyiv. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country could buy the tanks previously leased from Germany and then make them available to Ukraine.
Ukraine wants more
Previously, the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk had acknowledged the forthcoming German decision to supply Leopard main battle tanks as historic. Even if it was delayed, it was “without a doubt a real breakthrough and a game changer for Ukraine on the battlefield,” Melnyk told the German Press Agency (dpa). “It will go down in history.”
The Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk, then Ambassador of Ukraine in Germany (archive)
The fact that Chancellor Olaf Scholz apparently even helped convince the United States to deliver its M1 Abrams tanks is even “a double tank boom,” said Melnyk. According to reports from several US media, the government of US President Joe Biden wants to confirm the delivery of “a larger number” of the M1 Abrams as early as this Wednesday.
The former Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin later added in a television interview with RTL/ntv that the announced tank deliveries were “only a first step”. Germany must also deliver Tornado and Eurofighter fighter jets, warships and submarines to Ukraine, Melnyk demanded.
Military expert is critical of demands
The FDP military expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, on the other hand, reacted skeptically to the demands of Melnyk and the Ukrainian government to supply modern fighter jets in addition to the Leopard tanks. “I don’t see that with the planes, to put it bluntly,” said Strack-Zimmermann, who is generally a vehement supporter of arms deliveries to Ukraine.
The handover of aircraft is associated with completely different challenges and risks than the delivery of tanks, she made clear. “If a tank isn’t being operated properly, it will stand still. A plane will fall.” In addition, it was “unlikely” to get air superiority.
Leopard deliveries are not without consequences for the Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr’s operational readiness will be further weakened by the expected delivery of Leopard battle tanks from Germany to Ukraine, according to the Chairman of the Bundeswehr Association, André Wüstner. The delivery was “good for Ukraine on the one hand, bad for the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr on the other hand,” Wüstner said on Wednesday on German television.
One should not believe that the Ukraine war will be over in two or three months – and that the tanks already delivered and promised by Germany will not remain. “If we not only want to support Ukraine, but also want to be able to defend ourselves again,” Wüstner demanded that politicians strengthen the industry so that the necessary equipment is available in the coming years. “In the last few months it has been said that we are only partially ready to defend – if at all,” said Wüstner. Politicians are not only responsible for supporting Ukraine against the Russian war of aggression, but also for national and alliance defense, he said.
“Layoffs in the corruption scandal are necessary”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has defended the dismissal of high-ranking Ukrainian government officials as “necessary” in the wake of an alleged corruption scandal in the army. “We need a strong state,” he said in his daily video address. The layoffs are “necessary for our defense – and it helps our rapprochement with the European institutions”.
“All internal problems that prevent the strengthening of the state are currently being settled – and they will also be settled in the future,” said the president. Several deputy ministers, governors and senior officials resigned or were fired on Tuesday as a result of an alleged corruption scandal in the Ukrainian army.
This Wednesday it was announced that another senior official from the Ministry of Defense had to vacate his post. Anastasiya Radina, head of the anti-corruption committee in the Ukrainian parliament, announced on Facebook that Bohdan Chemlnytskyi, director of the procurement department at the Defense Ministry, has been fired. Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov had previously resigned because of the affair.
Ukrainian army retreats from Soledar
The Ukrainian army has said it has withdrawn from the fiercely contested town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine. After “months of difficult fighting”, the Ukrainian troops left the small town and retreated to other positions, military spokesman Sergiy Cherevaty told the AFP news agency. He did not name a date for the withdrawal.
Moscow had already announced the capture of Soledar on January 13, but Ukraine had denied this. With the capture of Soledar, Russian forces claim their first notable victory after several setbacks in recent months.
Soledar is about 15 kilometers north-east of the town of Bakhmut, which the Russian army and the Wagner mercenaries have been trying to take for months.
Swiss MPs want to allow weapons transfer to Kyiv
A parliamentary commission in Bern wants to enable other countries to transfer weapons from Switzerland to Ukraine. Citing its strict neutrality, Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries to ship Swiss weapons it owns to Ukraine.
With 14 votes to 11, the commission now decided on an initiative according to which Switzerland should waive the so-called non-re-export declaration if the war material is re-exported to Ukraine in connection with the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. If the Commission has its way, the change in the law should come into force quickly and be limited to the end of 2025.
Two Brits missing in Ukraine are dead
According to the families, two British nationals died during an aid operation in Ukraine. The two men, aged 28 and 48, have been missing for more than two weeks. They had traveled to the war zone as civilian relief workers and were killed trying to evacuate the city of Soledar.
According to the parents, the men’s car was hit by artillery while trying to take an elderly woman to safety. About two weeks ago, the Russian mercenary group Wagner claimed to have found the body of a missing Briton, along with ID and the documents of a second British citizen.
nob/sti/as/mak/rb/cw (AFP, AP, dpa, epd, KNA, Reuters)
This article will be continuously updated on the day of its publication. Reports from the combat zones cannot be independently verified.