Ukraine to get American, Germany infantry fighting vehicles

In a major boost to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the leaders of the United States and Germany said they were sending infantry fighting vehicles in a boost for the Kyiv government.

According to officials, the US weapons package, to be announced on Friday, is expected to include about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles as part of security assistance totalling about $2.8 billion.

The development came as US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to send the much infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) to help Ukraine fight Russia, a day after France said it would supply its own armoured vehicles to Kyiv in an attempt to create a breakthrough in the 10-month war.

It followed a phone call between Biden and Scholz and amounts to a step change in western military support for Ukraine, which has asked for up to 700 armoured vehicles to help force the Russians out.

“The United States intends to supply Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and Germany intends to provide Ukraine with Marder infantry fighting vehicles,” the White House said in a statement on Thursday.

“Right now the war in Ukraine is at a critical point,” U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters. “We have to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression.”

Germany would provide Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles, according to a joint statement on Thursday from Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Both countries agreed to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them, it said. Germany would also supply a Patriot air defence battery to Ukraine, which has scored some battlefield successes since Russian forces invaded last February but has asked allies for heavier weapons.

Ukraine has repeatedly said it needs 600 to 700 infantry fighting vehicles plus 300 tanks from the west in order to give its military a chance of breaking through the increasingly fortified Russian positions along the frontline.

Until now, however, the US and Germany have been wary of supplying Ukraine with NATO-standard armour, because they feared it would be interpreted by Russia as escalatory. But the decision to supply western armoured vehicles is significant, even if both countries stopped short of sending tanks.

France said on Wednesday it was upping its military aid to Kyiv by supplying an unspecified number of AMX-10 RC light armoured vehicles capable of scouting roles and supporting main battle tanks. Hours later Biden hinted the US was considering following with the Bradleys.

In his reaction, Zelensky said Paris’s decision sent “a clear signal to all our other partners: there is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with western-type tanks”.

36-hour truce proposal reject

Meanwhile, Zelensky rejected out of hand a Russian order for a truce over Russian Orthodox Christmas starting at noon on Friday and ending at midnight on Saturday. He said it was a trick to halt the progress of Ukraine’s forces in the eastern Donbas region and bring in more of Moscow’s forces.

“They now want to use Christmas as a cover, albeit briefly, to stop the advances of our boys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunitions and mobilised troops closer to our positions,” Zelensky said in his Thursday night video address. “What will that give them? Only yet another increase in their total losses.”

Biden suggested Putin’s ceasefire offer was a sign of desperation. “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” he told reporters at the White House.

Zelensky, pointedly speaking in Russian and not Ukrainian, said that ending the war meant “ending your country’s aggression … And the war will end either when your soldiers leave or we throw them out.”

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