Poland has lambasted Berlin for refusing to allow German-made Leopard tanks to be supplied to Kyiv’s military, as Russia claimed that its forces were gaining ground in eastern and southeastern Ukraine.
Britain, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also called for Ukraine to be given Leopards, just days after Germany said it was not ready to provide the tanks or to give other countries approval to re-export them to Kyiv.
“We will not stand by idly and watch Ukraine bleed to death. If we don’t get German agreement on the Leopards, we will build a ‘smaller coalition’ of countries ready to donate some of their modern tanks to a fighting Ukraine,” Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Sunday.
“Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began … Russian bombs are wreaking havoc in Ukrainian cities. Civilian targets are being attacked, women and children are being murdered,” he told Polish media.
“What more does Germany need to open its eyes and start to act in line with the potential of the German state?” Mr Morawiecki asked, urging Berlin to send tanks urgently or, at the very least, to not “weaken or sabotage the activities of other countries” by refusing to allow them to transfer Leopards to Ukraine.
Two days after defence chiefs from about 50 states that are helping Ukraine failed to resolve the tank issue at talks in Germany, Mr Morawiecki said: “The enemy is in the east and we’re wasting time on discussions that yield nothing good … I try to weigh my words, but I’ll say it bluntly. Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany.”
Germany’s new defence minister Boris Pistorius said after Friday’s meeting at the Ramstein airbase: “We still cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be, when it comes to the Leopard tank.” Berlin is reportedly reluctant to supply Leopards unless the US also sends its Abrams tank to Ukraine.
Eleven months into an all-out war with Russia that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, Ukraine should receive “the best military equipment … to help them defend themselves against this brutal invasion,” said British foreign secretary James Cleverly.
“Of course, I would like to see the Ukrainians equipped with things like the Leopard 2 as well as the artillery systems that have been provided by us and by others,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia called jointly for “Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now. This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly. Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard.”
Russia said its invasion force was moving forward in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast, but Ukraine insisted that its troops were holding their positions.
“Deliveries of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime will lead to a global catastrophe. If Washington and Nato countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories … this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament.
“Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons, foreign politicians making such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that will destroy their countries,” he added.
Kyiv says such threats from Russia are a bluff to cow Germany and other states into withholding weapons from Ukraine.
“Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.