Protests are raging after Germany and the United States announced that they will send advanced battle tanks to Ukraine, offering what one expert called an “armoured punching force” to help Kyiv break combat stalemates as the Russian invasion enters its 12th month. While the news was welcomed by Ukraine and Western allies, Germans took to the streets of Munich en masse on Wednesday to protest against the decision.
Chanting anti-war slogans and demanding a diplomatic solution to the war, protesters peacefully marched last night with the supervision of police officers along the route.
Berlin’s announcement marked the first stage of a coordinated effort by the West to provide dozens of the heavy weapons, which Ukrainian military commanders said would enable counter-offensives, reduce casualties and help restore dwindling ammunition supplies.
Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means they can give some of their stocks to Ukraine.
Speaking in a video address late Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the creation of what he described as a “tank coalition.”
“We must form a tank fist, a fist of freedom whose hits will not let tyranny stand up again,” Zelensky said.
He said Ukraine will push for more weapons, including long-range missiles and aircraft.
“The terrorist state must lose. The right to life must be protected. And it will be so,” Zelensky said.
Though it will take months before the tanks arrive, Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines said the decision comes at a critical point.
“Tanks will help reduce casualties among our soldiers … then gain new results and win this war quicker,” said Oleksander Syrotiuk, commander of a company in the 17th Tank Brigade deployed in Bakhmut.
Ukrainian soldiers and experts said Ukrainian forces are running low on spare parts to repair old Soviet-era tanks and the specific ammunition they require while enduring relentless barrages of Russian artillery. The Western tanks could help open a new pipeline for ammunition to flow to Ukraine.
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With an expected springtime Russian offensive looming, the tanks will also enable Ukraine’s forces to launch new offensives and curb casualties, three military commanders, including two in the army’s tank division, told The Associated Press.
“Without the new tanks, we cannot win this war,” said Maksim Butolin, chief sergeant of the 54th Brigade’s Tank Division. He spoke to the AP by phone earlier this week from near the Bakhmut front.
Scholz spoke by phone Wednesday with Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, the German chancellery said in a statement. All five leaders agreed to continue military support to Ukraine in close Euro-Atlantic coordination.
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Altogether, France, the UK, the US, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and heavy armored vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines.
Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechayev, called Berlin’s decision “extremely dangerous,” saying it “shifts the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians about their reluctance to get involved in it.”
Scholz had insisted that any decision to provide Ukraine with the powerful tanks would need to be taken in conjunction with Germany’s allies, chiefly the US. By getting Washington to commit some of its own tanks, Berlin hopes to share the risk of any backlash from Russia.