Ukraine appealed Thursday for its Western allies to send tanks to help Ukrainian forces battle a Russian military that it said has a “substantial quantitative advantage in troops, weapons and military equipment.”
In a joint statement, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov expressed gratitude toward 50 countries that have helped strengthen Ukraine’s defenses.
However, they said one of the most pressing needs in fighting off the Russian invasion that began nearly a year ago is to provide Ukraine with modern armored vehicles and give Ukrainian troops better firing and maneuverability capabilities with Western tanks.
Kuleba and Oleksii welcomed Britain’s move to send its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, while urging countries that have Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks to provide them to better help Ukraine’s forces.
“We guarantee that we will use these weapons responsibly and exclusively for the purposes of protecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders,” the ministers said.
A U.S. official who spoke to The Associated Press and a German official who spoke to Reuters said Germany would allow the Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine if the U.S. agrees to send its Abrams tanks.
Thursday’s statement from Ukraine came as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Germany to meet with new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and to hold a Friday meeting with the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group to discuss Ukraine’s defense needs.
The U.S. is expected to announce a new package totaling more than $2 billion that includes Stryker armored vehicles, but not the Abrams tanks.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told reporters Wednesday that Ukraine needs equipment to help it break through entrenched Russian lines. But he said the Abrams tanks would not be the best aid to provide at this time, pointing to potential challenges in using and maintaining them.
“One of the things that Secretary Austin has been very focused on is that we should not be providing the Ukrainians systems they can’t repair, they can’t sustain, and that they over the long term can’t afford, because it’s not helpful,” Kahl said.
European Council President Charles Michel said Thursday he was traveling to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials.
In a video posted to Twitter, Michel said Ukrainians are “fighting for their land, they are fighting for their future and the future of their children,” as well as “our common European values and principles.”
“They need and deserve our support and that’s why again we’ll discuss with President Zelenskyy and his team what are the concrete measures we can develop in order to make sure they are stronger and more powerful,” Michel said.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.