In an unusual public push, foreign ministers from the Baltic states have asked Germany to “immediately” deliver Leopard heavy tanks to Ukraine, citing the country’s “special responsibility” as the EU’s “first power”.
However, Germany is reluctant to send these tanks to Ukraine or allow them to keep them – and would need its authorization – to do so.
Recent press reports indicated that Berlin would only agree to the deliveries if the US also sent its Abrams tanks. But Washington also refuses to do that, citing maintenance and training reasons.
Representatives from about 50 countries met on Friday at the US base in Ramstein, Germany, without reaching an agreement on sending heavy tanks.
Russia, in turn, said the final delivery of the material would not change anything on the frontline and accused the West of maintaining the “illusion” of a Ukrainian victory in the conflict. However, for many experts, the use of modern heavy tanks would benefit Ukraine in the east, where Russia has regained its military initiative after a series of setbacks.
Undecided, Ukrainians are frustrated. “Instability is killing more of our fellow citizens these days,” warned Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, in a tweet.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky bemoaned the uncertainty of his allies, though he is adamant that they have “no change” except to provide them with modern tanks to bolster resistance to the Russian invasion that began nearly eleven months ago.
Russia announced on Saturday that it had conducted air defense exercises in the Moscow region of the country’s capital to protect its critical infrastructure in case of “air attacks”. The ministry did not elaborate on the exact date of the exercise.
The country has been the target of a number of attacks on its border in recent months, which Ukraine risks claiming responsibility for.
In Kiev, Zelensky and his wife attended the funeral of Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, who died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday, along with 13 others.
The incident took place in a building near Maidan Square. Soldiers carried seven coffins draped with the Ukrainian flag.
The victims’ families and those present, including several Ukrainian leaders, chanted “Glory to our heroes!” They chanted. “Ukraine is losing its best sons and daughters every day,” lamented Zelensky after the ceremony.
Russia on the attack
The Russian army launched an offensive on Saturday in the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhya, where fighting has intensified after months of moving on the front line.
Russian forces announced “offensive operations” in the region and said they had “adopted more favorable lines and positions”. Ukrainian troops have already noted in their morning press release that clashes took place in a dozen cities in the region on Friday.
The largest conflict is currently taking place in the Donetsk region. Russian troops, backed by the Wagner paramilitary group designated by the United States as an international “criminal organization,” have been concentrating their offensive on Bagmuth for weeks.
A senior U.S. official said the Ukrainian military should not try to defend Bagmut at any cost, but instead focus on preparing a major counteroffensive.
The thing is, the city has become a bigger symbol than its strategic importance. Zelensky recently went to the front lines to encourage his troops. Russia, for its part, is eager to capture the city and put setbacks in recent months behind it.