Pledge of new Western aid to Ukraine ahead of important meeting
kyiv: The United States and three European nations on Thursday pledged substantial new deliveries of armor, missiles and artillery to kyiv, ahead of a key meeting of nations helping Ukraine militarily defend against a Russian invasion.
With the aim of coordinating the continuation of this assistance, the defense ministers of the main Western countries providing it, of which America’s Lloyd Austin, will be present on Friday at the Ramstein airbase in Germany.
“We are preparing for Ramstein tomorrow. We expect a strong decision. We expect strong military support from the United States,” Zelensky said in his evening address.
Even before this “contact group” meeting, the United States on Thursday announced a new tranche of military aid to Ukraine of $2.5 billion.
This additional assistance includes the delivery of 59 Bradley armored vehicles, which will be added to the 50 light armored vehicles of this type promised on January 6, and 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers “which will provide Ukraine with two armored brigades”, according to Pentagon.
The US Army will also deliver to Ukraine 53 anti-mine armored vehicles (MRAP) and 350 transport vehicles M998, the famous Humvee.
But this new stage does not include any heavy tanks, such as the Abrams, which the United States is not yet ready to supply to Kyiv, justifying this rejection with maintenance and training issues.
The new installment brings total US military aid to Ukraine to $26.7 billion since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24.
“We need tanks»
Britain has promised to send Ukraine 600 additional Brimstone missiles, Denmark 19 French-made Caesar guns, and Swedish Archer self-propelled guns.
The systems all have a range of several tens of kilometers but less than that claimed by Ukraine.
London has pledged 14 Challenger 2 heavy tanks to Kyiv, and Poland said it is ready to deliver 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks, a far cry from the hundreds of vehicles Ukraine says it needs.
“You need German tanks, Finnish tanks, Danish tanks, French tanks, this means that Western Europe itself must now allocate more modern tanks to Ukraine, so that it can defend itself”, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pleaded on Thursday.
“We appeal to all partner countries that have provided or are planning to provide military assistance, urging them to increase their contribution significantly,” the Ukrainian ministers of defense and foreign affairs, Oleksiï Reznikov and Dmytro Kouleba wrote in a statement.
In particular, they accused twelve countries, such as Germany and Turkey, of asking them to build German-made Leopard tanks, the delivery of which was uncertain due to delays in Germany.
This call was supported by European Council President Charles Michel, for whom “tanks should be sent” to Ukraine because “the next few weeks could be decisive” at the front.
“We hear your message»
“We heard your message. You need more air defense systems and artillery, more ammunition,” Charles Michel said on Twitter after a meeting in Kyiv with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Speaking via video conference on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, Zelensky for his part mocked, with obvious allusions to Germany, those who say “+ I will send tanks if someone else does+”.
Germany is also under increasing pressure from some of its European neighbors to allow the Leopard shipments.
“Against thousands of tanks from Russia (…), the courage of our soldiers and the motivation of the Ukrainian people is not enough”, warned Mr Zelensky.
Shortly afterward, one of his advisers, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, called on Westerners to stop “trembling before Putin” and send in the armored vehicles that Ukraine said it needed.
Western tanks, however, are “not a silver bullet” against Russia, Commander Allied Forces Europe (SACEUR), US General Christopher Cavoli, warning Thursday that “a balance between all (weapon) systems is necessary”.
The Ukrainian authorities also said in this regard that they need a missile system with a range of more than 100 km in order to hit the Russian supply chain, in particular ammunition depots.
But Westerners fear, despite Ukrainian assurances, that Kyiv will increasingly use these weapons to strike deep into Russian territory and air and naval bases in Crimea, a peninsula that was annexed in 2014 by Russia.
Russia is stepping up
The Kremlin also sent a clear warning on Thursday: the delivery of long-range weapons “will mean that the conflict will reach a new level”.
On the battlefield, Russian troops, backed by Wagner’s private paramilitary group, stepped up their efforts to capture Bakhmout, an area in the Donetsk region (east) that had been the target of months of bloody fighting.
Over the past 15 days, Russian fighters have advanced somewhat, capturing most of the nearby town of Soledar.
And on Thursday, they launched a “local attack” in the south, near the city of Orekhiv, according to an official of the Russian occupation administration Vladimir Rogov.
In this context, Volodymyr Zelensky recalled “the importance of demilitarization of the power plant (nuclear plant in Zaporizhia, in southern Ukraine) and the withdrawal of all representatives of Russia without exception”, on the occasion of a meeting with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Raphael Grossi, in ” working visit” to Ukraine.