US, Germany poised to send tanks to Ukraine

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The United States and Germany are poised to provide a significant boost to Kyiv’s war effort with the delivery of heavy battle tanks to Ukraine, sources said, a move Moscow condemned as a “blatant provocation”.

Washington was expected to announce as soon as Wednesday that it will send M1 Abrams tanks and Berlin has decided to dispatch Leopard 2 tanks, the sources said, a reversal in policy that Kyiv has said would help reshape the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again pressed Western allies to provide their most modern battle tanks, saying in his nightly video address that “discussions must be concluded with decisions”.

Germany and the United States have until now held back on providing heavy armour, wary of moves that could give the Kremlin reason to widen the conflict.

Moscow has warned that supplies of modern offensive weaponry to Ukraine will escalate the war, with some Russian officials warning that Kyiv’s allies were leading the world into a “global catastrophe”. Moscow has now repeatedly said that it is fighting the collective West in Ukraine.

The possible deliveries of battle tanks by Washington to Ukraine would be “another blatant provocation” against Russia, Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, said on Wednesday.

“It is obvious that Washington is purposefully trying to inflict a strategic defeat on us,” Antonov said in remarks published on the embassy’s Telegram messaging app.

Two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was ready to start a process that would eventually send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, just days after it had argued against granting Kyiv’s requests.

A third official said the US commitment could total about 30 tanks delivered over the coming months.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had decided to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do so as well, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news, said Germany was planning to supply at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, which usually comprise 14 tanks. Other allies, in Scandinavia for example, intend to go along with Germany in supplying their Leopard tanks to Kyiv, the magazine reported.

While there was no official confirmation from Berlin or Washington, officials in Kyiv hailed what they said was a potential gamechanger on the battlefield in a war that is now 11 months old – even if the rumoured tank numbers fell short of the hundreds they say they need to liberate all occupied areas.

“A few hundred tanks for our tank crews …. This is what is going to become a real punching fist of democracy,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy’s administration, wrote on Telegram.