Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has praised German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his decision to allow German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
“Thank you Olaf Scholz. The decision to send Leopards to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia. Together we are stronger,” Morawiecki said in a tweet.
Poland has been pushing Germany to send Leopard 2s, or at least allow third countries to re-export them.
According to German law, weapons intended for warfare that are manufactured in the country cannot be re-exported without the federal government’s approval.
On Tuesday, Poland’s defense minister said the country had formally asked for approval from Germany to transfer some of its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
The French government also issued a statement welcoming the German government’s decision to send Leopard 2s to Ukraine.
“France welcomes the German decision, which extends and amplifies the support we have given with the delivery of the AMX10 RC,” it said.
AMX 10-RCs are French-made light battle tanks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff has welcomed the news that Germany will send his country Leopard 2 combat tanks, and reiterated they needed “a lot” of them.
“The first tank step has been taken,” said Andriy Yermak on Telegram. “Next up is the ‘tank coalition’. We need a lot of Leopards.”
Germany’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is “absolutely logical,” the country’s Economics Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has said.
“Ukraine has been defending itself for almost a year against Russia’s attack, which is contrary to international law. It is defending its territorial integrity and its freedom with a tenacity that impresses me anew every day,” said Habeck in a statement.
“And I am convinced that it is our responsibility to support them in this — together with our European and international partners, especially the USA.”
Habeck said that it is important to “weigh things up carefully” before adjusting the level of support to Ukraine.
“The decisions we have now taken are therefore absolutely logical,” he said.
“In close cooperation with our partners, we are supplying battle tanks to Ukraine so that it can better defend itself against Russian aggression, and we are also making this possible for our partners,” added Habeck.
“Ukraine’s right to self-defense applies, and we support it in this with great strength.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the “right decision” by NATO allies to send battle tanks to Ukraine, following Germany’s announcement that it will provide Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks.
“The right decision by NATO Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine,” tweeted Sunak. “Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower. Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.”
Sunak was referring to British Challenger 2 tanks. On January 14, the UK government announced that it would send 12 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of efforts to “intensify” support for the Ukrainian defense against Russia.
The Russian government has ordered the establishment of more than 20 correctional facilities in the occupied regions of Ukraine, a government document shows.
The correctional facilities will be established in the four regions that Russia claims to have illegally annexed — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — according to the document, which was published Tuesday on the official Russian government portal of legal information.
“The main purpose of the activities of the institutions (… ) is the execution of criminal punishment in the form of forced labor, as specified by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation,” the document reads.
Most of the facilities are prison colonies, three are forced labor facilities and three are medical correctional institutions.
The document was signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
Germany will provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own stocks as part of a first shipment to Ukraine, according to a government statement.
“The goal is to quickly assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine,” the statement said. Deliveries from European partners are to make up the remainder.
Germany confirmed that it will authorize the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks from other countries. Re-export of German-made weapons requires permission from the German government under national law.
“Germany will give the partner countries that want to quickly deliver Leopard 2 tanks from their stocks to Ukraine the corresponding authorizations to transfer them,” reads the statement.
Poland has been pushing Germany to allow it to send some of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and formally requested permission to do so on Tuesday.
Germany will also host Ukrainian tank crews so they can learn about the Leopard 2.
“The training of the Ukrainian crews is to begin quickly in Germany,” reads the statement. “In addition to training, the package will also include logistics, ammunition and maintenance of the systems.”
If the US sends its Abrams tanks to Ukraine they will “burn down just like all the others,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.
“I am convinced that many experts understand the absurdity of this idea as well, this plan is quite a failure in terms of technological aspects,” Peskov told reporters during a regular conference call.
“We repeat that these tanks will burn down just like all the others. Only they cost a lot, and all this will fall primarily on the shoulders of European taxpayers,” he added.
US officials familiar with the negotiations said the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send approximately 30 US-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
Previously, Russia’s Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said Russian armed forces will destroy US-made Abrams tanks and other NATO military equipment if they are supplied to Ukraine.
“If a decision to transfer to Kiev M1 Abrams is made, American tanks without any doubt will be destroyed as all other samples of NATO military equipment,” said Antonov in a statement late Tuesday.
Germany has confirmed that it will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, following weeks of diplomatic pressure to do so.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the move in a cabinet meeting Wednesday, according to federal government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
“This is the result of intensive consultations that took place with Germany’s closest European and international partners,” Scholz said, according to the statement. “This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability.”
This is a breaking story, more to follow…
Wagner mercenary forces are making progress in Bakhmut and fighting in parts of the town that the Ukrainians held until recently, a pro-Russian official has told Russian state news agency TASS.
“Units, in particular Wagner, are advancing in Artemivsk [the Russian name for Bakhmut] itself,” said Denis Pushilin, the Kremlin-backed governor of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine.
“Battles are already ongoing somewhere on the outskirts, and somewhere in those quarters that were recently held by the enemy.”
CNN could not verify the battlefield claims.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday that Russia was “increasing pressure” in the direction of Bakhmut and the nearby town of Vuhledar.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff made a brief reference to Bakhmut in its daily update on Wednesday, saying that Russian troops “continue[s] to conduct offensives” around the town and it had had “repelled” attacks there.
“While suffering numerous casualties, the enemy continues to conduct offensives in the direction of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka,” it said.
“Ukrainian Defense Forces have repelled enemy attacks near the towns of Bilohorivka in Luhansk region and Rozdolivka, Krasna Hora, Bakhmut, Novobakhmutivka, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka and Charivne in Donetsk region.”
On Tuesday, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Russian forces had “made marginal territorial gains near Bakhmut.”
Pavlo Kyrylenko, Ukraine’s regional governor in Donetsk, said on Telegram on Wednesday morning that Vuhledar, some 130 kilometers southwest of Bakhmut, had come under “intense shelling.”