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UK, Baltic states urge allies to supply Ukraine with Leopard tanks

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Britain still seeks an international deal to provide Ukraine with the German-made tanks that Kyiv says it needs in its fight against Russia but whose transfer needs German consent, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said

Western allies pledged billions of dollars in weapons for Ukraine last week, although they failed to persuade Germany to lift a veto on providing Leopard battle tanks, which are held by an array of NATO nations but whose supply to Ukraine would require Berlin’s approval.

Leopard tanks are seen by defense experts as the most suitable for Ukraine.

“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,” Cleverly said in an interview with Sky News.

“I will keep having those conversations with our NATO allies and friends, to facilitate the donation of the best military equipment to Ukraine to help them defend themselves against this brutal invasion,” he said.

Asked whether Germany was doing enough to help Ukraine, Cleverly said he wanted to see “everybody going as far as they can, but each country will support Ukraine in a way that is most appropriate to them.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged allies at a meeting on Friday to do more to support Ukraine. But no decision on supplying Leopard tanks was reached, officials said, although pledges were made for large consignments of other weapons.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrat party is traditionally skeptical of military involvements and wary of further escalation in the conflict in Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s spokesperson said on Friday that Western countries supplying additional tanks to Ukraine would not change the course of the conflict and that they would add to the problems of the Ukrainian people.

A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin also said on Sunday that deliveries of offensive weapons to Kyiv that threaten Russia’s territories will lead to a global catastrophe and make arguments against using weapons of mass destruction untenable.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma – Russia’s lower house of parliament – warned that the United States and NATO’s support of Ukraine are leading the world to a “terrible war.”

“If Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories, as they threaten, this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons. Arguments that the nuclear powers have not previously used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts are untenable. Because these states did not face a situation where there was a threat to the security of their citizens and their territorial integrity,” Volodin wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Calls on Germany

Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, is hoping to visit Ukraine as soon as possible, he said. “What is certain is that I will travel to Ukraine quickly. Probably even within the next four weeks,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Asked when the decision on Leopard tanks for Ukraine would be made, Pistorius said, “We are in very close dialogue with our international partners, first and foremost with the U.S., on this issue.”

He said that in order to be best prepared for possible decisions, he had instructed the ministry on Friday to “examine everything to the extent that we do not lose time unnecessarily” as and when tanks are to be dispatched.

Meanwhile, the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania on Saturday made a joint call to Germany to step up its leadership and send its main battle tanks to Ukraine. “We – Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Foreign Ministers – call on 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,” wrote Estonia’s foreign minister on Twitter.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year raised concerns in the small Baltic states – all NATO members that restored their independence after decades of Soviet rule in 1991 – that they could also come under an attack from Moscow.

Poland’s prime minister on Sunday lashed out at Germany’s decision not to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine, branding the country’s stance “unacceptable.” “Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began. Innocent people are dying every day. Russian bombs are wreaking havoc in Ukrainian cities. Civilian targets are being attacked, women and children are being murdered,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the PAP agency.

Poland had earlier announced it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv and says it is discussing the matter with around 15 countries. “If Berlin refuses to supply the tanks to Ukraine, we will set up a ‘small coalition’ of countries ready to donate some of their modern equipment, their modern tanks,” said Morawiecki.

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