Besides the Leopard battle tanks (pictured), the Marders are high up on the list of items Ukraine has urged Berlin to supply

Pressure on Berlin intensifies to send battle tanks to Ukraine

In addition to the Leopard battle tanks (pictured), Marders are at the top of the list of goods that Ukraine called on Berlin to supply – Copyright Lehtikuva/AFP Heikki Saukkomaa

Sebastian ESH

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is facing pressure at home and abroad over arms shipments to Ukraine, and Kyiv has criticized his refusal to send battle tanks that will bolster Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russia.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday criticized the “disappointing signals from Germany” about the supply of additional weapons.

“Not a single rational argument why these weapons cannot be placed, only abstract fears and excuses,” Kuleba wrote in his Twitter post.

“What Berlin is afraid of, that Kyiv does not exist.”

Initially refusing to provide lethal weapons to the Kyiv forces at the start of the war, Germany has since increased its supply of weapons to Ukraine.

Heaps of ammunition and rocket launchers were sent to Ukraine from weapons factories and the German army’s own warehouses, as well as dozens of tanks and howitzers.

Kuleba’s furious message has sparked new debate about Germany’s alleged reluctance to do more to support Kyiv in its efforts to repel a Russian invasion.

But Berlin has so far refused to send much-needed Leopard battle tanks, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that Germany would not “go it alone” in arms shipments without coordinating with allies.

– “Nearsighted” –

Ukrainian forces deployed weapons supplied by the Western Allies and launched a counter-offensive with great efficiency, launched in early September, when they regained control of vast swaths of territory in the northeast and south of the country.

Germany “delivered a very effective weapon that matters on the battlefield at the moment,” Scholz said on Monday.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht specifically emphasized that “no country” had sent Western-made battle tanks to Ukraine, reiterating that Berlin had agreed to coordinate arms deliveries with the allies.

But the US embassy in Berlin said that “the nature of aid is ultimately up to each country to decide.”

“We call on all allies and partners to provide maximum support to Ukraine in its struggle for democratic sovereignty,” the embassy said on Twitter.

The decision not to send weapons during Ukraine’s counter-offensive was “unexpected and short-sighted,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to the Ukrainian president, told the German newspaper Bild.

– More tanks –

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall told public television channel ARD that the 16 Marder infantry fighting vehicles it has restored at its own expense are “ready for delivery” to Ukraine if officials in Berlin give the go-ahead.

Besides Leopard battle tanks, Marders are at the top of the list of goods that Ukraine has urged Berlin to deliver.

Rheinmetall is preparing 14 more Marders with the potential to supply another 70 from stock, ARD said.

The heated debate over Leopards and Marders was a reminder of recent outrage over Germany’s initial stuttering response to military support for Kyiv.

The Scholz government only reversed after much public ranting by Ukrainian leaders, and the chancellor has since said that Germany will take on “special responsibility” to help Ukraine build its artillery and air defense systems.

But Ukraine’s insistent pleas for Leopard tanks and Marder vehicles have so far gone unanswered, and even representatives of the ruling coalition of Scholz’s Social Democrats, the liberal FDP and the Greens are urging the chancellor to relent.

Berlin’s reluctance to send armored vehicles came “at the expense of Ukraine,” FDP MP Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the parliamentary defense committee, told AFP.

Germany should “stop hiding behind other countries,” said senior Greens MP Anton Hofreiter to the RND media network.

“Sooner or later, we will not be able to avoid the supply of modern Western main battle tanks to Ukraine,” he said.

Arms agreements with the allies were not “set in stone,” Social Democrat Michael Roth, chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign policy committee, told public radio Deutschlandfunk.

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