More countries answered President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to send further arms to Ukraine, as the US said a $2.5 billion package, including armoured vehicles and air defence systems, would be sent to the war-hit country.
However, there is a question mark at Germany who is being accused some circles of playing a Russian game by secretly working on peace deal – a virtual stalemate – in favour of Moscow by blocking further provision of modern western weapons.
Fearing winter will give Russian forces time to regroup and unleash a major attack, Ukraine is pushing for the Leopard battle tanks, which are held by an array of NATO nations but whose transfer to Ukraine requires Germany’s approval.
A German government source said Berlin would lift its objections if Washington sends its own Abrams tanks. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, has been reluctant to send weapons that could be seen as provoking Moscow. Many of Berlin’s Western allies say that concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war.
The announcements come ahead of a crunch meeting scheduled in Germany on Friday, in which 50 countries are set to co-ordinate arms supplies.
A meeting on Thursday saw representatives from 11 nations gather at an army base in Estonia to discuss a range of new packages to help Ukraine recapture territory and fend off any further Russian advances.
Nine countries – the UK, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, the Netherlands and Slovakia – promised more support while the Netherlands will announce its package of support on Friday.
New weapons delivery would include:
UK: 600 Brimstone missiles
Denmark: 19 French-made Caesar self-propelled howitzers
Estonia: howitzers, ammunition, support vehicles and anti-tank grenade launchers
Latvia: Stinger air-defence systems, two helicopters, and drones
Lithuania: anti-aircraft guns and two helicopters
Poland: S-60 anti-aircraft guns with 70,000 pieces of ammunition
Czech Republic: produce further large calibre ammunition, howitzers and APCs
As far as Germany is concerned, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and new German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius met in Berlin, but there was no word on any progress ahead of a meeting of dozens of allies on Friday at Ramstein, Washington’s main European air base.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said later on Thursday of the possibility of German approval, “I am moderately sceptical, moderately pessimistic because the Germans are defending themselves against this like a devil protects himself against holy water.”
Zelenskyy made thinly disguised criticism of Germany for its stance. ‘‘’I am powerful in Europe, I will help if someone else outside of Europe will also help.’ It seems to me that this is not a very correct strategy,” he said.
The Ramstein meeting on Friday is billed as a chance for the West to give Ukraine what it needs to defeat Russia in 2023. But Kyiv says it needs heavy tanks to fend off Russian assaults and recapture occupied land.
“We have no time, the world does not have this time,” Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, wrote on Telegram on Thursday. “We are paying for the slowness with the lives of our Ukrainian people. It shouldn’t be like that.”