The essentials in brief:
- Selenskyj dismisses other executives
- Poland applies for Berlin approval for Leopard delivery
- Luxembourg’s foreign minister defends the German chancellor
- Rheinmetall could deliver 139 Leopard tanks by early 2024
- Schooling is hardly possible in Ukraine
The Ukrainian government has approved the resignation of several governors and fired four deputy ministers, a government official told the Telegram news service. According to Taras Melnychuk, the government representative in parliament, these are the governors of the central Dnipropetrovsk region, the southern regions of Zaporizhia and Kherson, the northern Ukrainian region of Sumy and the capital Kyiv, as well as the deputy ministers of defense, social policy and two deputy ministers for regional development. The reason is the suspicion that parts of the multi-billion euro support funds from abroad have been misappropriated.
The wave of layoffs was preceded by a series of corruption scandals involving bribes, the misappropriation of aid funds and the scooping of construction contracts and luxury travel. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj is apparently trying to minimize the damage to his image with a sweeping attack.
Requirements for the EU accession candidate
After the Russian invasion, a good half of the Ukrainian state budget is financed from abroad. Ukraine has the status of an EU candidate country. This also entails requirements for combating corruption. Even before the war, Ukraine was considered one of the most corrupt countries in Europe.
The EU Commission called on the country to make further efforts. There must be guarantees for donors that funds are used sensibly, according to a spokeswoman for the Commission in Brussels. The EU recently paid Ukraine another three billion euro loan. A further 15 billion euros are to flow by the end of the year.
Poland requests approval for Leopard shipment
Poland has submitted an official application to the German government to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine. This was announced by Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak on Twitter. Poland declared that it wanted to support Kyiv. Blaszczak called on Berlin to “join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.” The Leopard tanks in Poland come from German production, which is why the approval of the federal government is required for their transfer.
Defense Minister Pistorius: Decision on tank delivery will be made “soon”.
Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) expects a quick decision from the federal government with regard to the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine. “I expect that a decision will be made shortly,” said Pistorius after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin.
Stoltenberg defended Germany in the tank dispute. Among Ukraine’s allies, Berlin provides the “most extensive military, financial and humanitarian support” to Kyiv, he said. “Weapons from Germany save lives in Ukraine every day.” On the issue of supplying Leopard tanks, he said he was “confident that we will have a solution soon.”
Pistorius emphasized that a survey of the leopard stocks he had initiated was “close to completion”. The federal government wants to use it to check the “stocks and potential” of the armaments industry and the compatibility of the Leopard tanks.
“The enemy is not Scholz, but Putin”
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn defended the German Chancellor in the tank debate. “The enemy is not Chancellor Scholz, the enemy is called Putin. And that’s what we should focus on,” Asselborn said in the ZDF news magazine “heute-journal”.
Although Olaf Scholz has not yet said no to the delivery of Leopard tanks demanded by Kyiv, he has not said yes either. Incidentally, Germany is not as isolated on this issue in the EU as is sometimes portrayed in the German media, said Asselborn. There are also other “large countries and border countries” that are reluctant to take this step.
Asselborn spoke of about 300 tanks needed, if possible of one type. And if you look around, there is only one model with such a massive presence in Europe. There are 2000 Leopard tanks in Europe.
Rheinmetall could deliver 139 Leopard tanks – gradually
According to a spokesman, the armaments group Rheinmetall could deliver a total of 139 Type 1 and Type 2 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. A company spokesman told the editorial network Germany that 29 Leopard 2A4s could be ready as early as April or May this year. Rheinmetall could “make available” 88 vehicles of the Leopard 1.
The group also has 22 more Leopard 2A4s that will take almost a year to refurbish, so they could be delivered in late 2023 or early 2024, the spokesman added.
In Ukraine, the fight for the Donbass and the south of the country continues. “The enemy is shelling and attacking around the clock,” said President Zelenskyy in his evening speech. “We see how Russia is concentrating its troops, but we know how to react.”
Looking back on the past eleven months, Selenskyj speaks of a “rapacious comprehensive war by Russia”. There was looting everywhere in the Ukrainian areas temporarily occupied by Russian troops, Zelensky said. “Everything they don’t destroy, they steal and bring to Russia. Everything.” Two million Ukrainians have already been deported to Russia.
School lessons are hardly possible
During the Ukraine war, a school has been destroyed every other day since the beginning of the school year. This is what the aid organization Save the Children points out on International Education Day. Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, 3,025 educational institutions have been bombed and shelled, according to Ukrainian figures.
“The war has made it incredibly difficult for children in Ukraine to access education,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Ukraine country director. “Millions of children have had to study at home due to the constant threat of shells and rocket attacks. And now even online learning is being further hampered by frequent power and internet outages.”
Sanctions against other members of the Russian Orthodox Church
Ukraine takes punitive action against 22 Russians belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. “Sanctions have been imposed on 22 Russian citizens who support terror and genocidal policies under the guise of spirituality,” Zelenskyy said in his video address. According to a decree of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, the list also includes Mikhail Gundayev, who represents the Russian Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches and other international organizations in Geneva. According to Russian state media, he is a nephew of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. Ukraine imposed sanctions on Kyrill last year.
Moscow sends three more infantry divisions to Ukraine
According to the new chief of staff, Valery Gerasimov, Russia will deploy three more motorized infantry divisions in the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia. Russia illegally annexed the regions in September. “The main goal of this work is to ensure the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” Gerasimov told online news site Argumenti i Fakti.
uh/jj/los/kle/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.