Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine
Germany receives Polish request to give Ukraine tanks, says Poland
A Bundeswehr Leopard 2 A6 heavy tank.
Sean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images
Germany has now received Poland’s official request to re-export Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Polish defence minister said on Tuesday, as Warsaw cranks up the pressure on Berlin to give its approval.
Ukraine wants the German-made Leopard 2, one of the most widely used Western tanks, to help it break through Russian lines and recapture territory this year.
Germany, whose approval is required for re-exports of the Leopard, has held back, wary of prompting Moscow to escalate the conflict.
“The Germans have already received our request for permission to transfer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.
“I also appeal to the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks,” he added. “This is our common cause, because the security of the whole of Europe is at stake!”
Berlin has said it is willing to act quickly if there is a consensus among those allies.
A spokesperson for the German economy ministry could not immediately be reached by telephone and did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.
On Sunday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said Berlin would not stand in Poland’s way if it chose to ask and, on Monday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Germany was not blocking the export of the tanks.
Finland says time-out needed in talks with Turkey over NATO bid
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signs a petition for NATO membership in Helsinki on May 17, 2022. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he opposes the Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
Antti Aimo-koivisto | Afp | Getty Images
Finland’s foreign minister said on Tuesday a time-out of a few weeks was needed in Finland and Sweden’s talks with Turkey on their application to join the NATO military alliance.
Turkey’s president said on Monday that Sweden should not expect his country’s support after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm at the weekend, which included the burning of a copy of the Koran.
“A time-out is needed before we return to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust has settled after the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn yet,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“I think there will be a break for a couple of weeks.”
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after Russia invaded of Ukraine, and now need the backing of all current NATO states to advance their application.
But Turkey has said Sweden in particular must take a clearer stance against what Ankara sees as terrorists: mainly Kurdish militants, and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday announced that presidential and parliamentary elections would be brought forward a month to May 14.
Haavisto said he had spoken on Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Of course they feel the pressure from the upcoming elections in mid-May and because of that the discussion understandably has become heated in many ways in Turkey,” Haavisto said.
Finland and Sweden have repeatedly said they plan to join the alliance simultaneously and Haavisto said he saw no reason to consider whether Finland might go it alone.
Germany refuses to shift position on tanks, for now
Boris Pistorius (R) German Defense Minister, and Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, give a press conference at the German Defense Ministry after a joint meeting.
Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images
Germany has again refused to commit to allowing German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine despite intense pressure.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Tuesday there has been no change in Berlin’s position on whether to allow German-made Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, or on permitting other countries with German-made tanks to send their units to Kyiv. He added that the government still needed to assess the situation.
“I can tell you there is no new information here, the situation has not changed, and we are preparing our decision, which will come very soon,” he said at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We are looking into the matter, what the current status is regarding our Leopard tanks,” he said in translated comments. He noted that Berlin was looking not only at its inventory and industry stocks, but also at the compatibility of its tanks for combat in Ukraine, as well as issues around the logistics of supply and maintenance.
Aware that Berlin’s reluctance over tanks has attracted widespread criticism, Pistorius insisted that Germany was one of Ukraine’s top military supporters aside from the U.S. and U.K., and that this was “often forgotten in the public discussion.”
— Holly Ellyatt
Reshuffle of top Ukraine government posts to take place, vacations abroad banned
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday evening that there was going to be a reshuffle of senior government posts.
“There are already personnel decisions — some today, some tomorrow — regarding officials of various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in the law enforcement system,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
The president noted that a decision had been made by the National Security and Defence Council that government officials “will no longer be able to travel abroad for vacation or for some other non-governmental purpose.”
The decision applied to all officials of the central authorities and various other levels of local government, he said, “as well as law enforcement officials, people’s deputies, prosecutors, and all those who have to work for the state and within the state.”
“If they want to rest now, they will rest outside the public service,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on January 11, 2023, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yuriy Dyachyshyn | Afp | Getty Images
A close aide of Zelenskyy resigned Tuesday morning, although it’s unknown whether it is connected to the president’s announcement.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, did not give a reason for his departure in a Telegram post. He thanked the president “for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute.”
One of Zelenskyy’s communications advisors, Oleksiy Arestovych, resigned last week after suggesting a Russian missile strike on a Dnipro apartment building that killed 45 people had been the result of Ukrainian air defenses shooting down the missile.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine says tanks decision ‘half a step’ away; Berlin under pressure to decide
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba attends a joint media briefing amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine 14 September 2022.
Nurphoto | Getty Images
A decision on whether to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is in its final stages, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday, with only a last “half step” to be taken.
“We have only half a step left to take in the matter of tanks,” Kuleba said during a nationwide news telethon reported by news outlet Ukrinform Monday.
“We have already received the British Challengers [tanks], which we were once told were impossible. We are already receiving French tanks – light ones so far. We hear that France is considering the provision of Leclerc tanks. I have no doubts that the Leopard tanks will reach us. We are at the final stage,” Kuleba said.
Germany is under intense pressure to decide whether to give the greenlight for German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine. NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is traveling to Berlin Tuesday to meet German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and a press conference is due at 9:15 a.m. local time.
Kyiv has asked its allies repeatedly for Leopard 2s to combat Russia’s ongoing invasion, but Germany has been reluctant to send them, or to allow other countries to send their own Leopard 2s, fearing it could be seen as an escalatory move by Russia. So far, only the U.K. has sent 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.
Kuleba acknowledged that it was a difficult decision for Germany because it is “such a country, there are specifics, it must be taken into account.” “But, in the end, we always got the necessary result, and this time we will get the same result,” he said.
Commenting on Germany’s delay in resolving the issue of providing tanks to Ukraine, he said Kyiv had told its German partners that the sooner they make a decision on tanks, “the less blood of Ukrainian soldiers will be shed and the fewer Ukrainian lands will be under occupation,” Ukrinform reported.
— Holly Ellyatt
NATO chief set to visit Germany as tanks debate rages
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a closing press conference during the second of two days of defence ministers’ meetings at NATO headquarters on October 13, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.
Omar Havana | Getty Images
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin on Tuesday.
The meeting comes amid palpable frustration in Europe regarding Germany’s failure to make a decision about allowing German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
Kyiv has been requesting Leopard 2 tanks from its European allies for months, saying it needs them to fight Russia as the war approaches its one-year mark.
Germany has appeared reluctant to either send its own Leopard 2s, or to allow other countries with the tanks to re-export them to Ukraine, fearing it could be seen as an escalatory move by Russia. Berlin was also said to be ready to send such tanks only if the U.S. sent its own Abrams tanks.
NATO announced Monday that Stoltenberg was making the trip to Berlin, raising expectations that Germany could be ready to announce it is ready to allow tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
At the weekend, both Pistorius and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock signaled that a decision would be made, and that Poland would not be blocked from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine, with or without Berlin’s permission.
— Holly Ellyatt
State Department reaffirms Finland and Sweden’s ascension to NATO
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, August 16, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The State Department reaffirmed U.S. support for Finland and Sweden’s ascension to NATO as Hungary and Turkey consider ratifying the two nations into the alliance.
“You’ve heard this from the administration. You’ve heard this from members of Congress, we strongly support their NATO candidacies, Finland and Sweden are ready to join the alliance. They are ready to join the alliance because of their military capabilities and abilities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press briefing.
“We are also cognizant of the fact that those who may be behind what has taken place in Sweden may be engaging in an intentional effort to try to weaken unity across the Atlantic and within and among our European allies and partners. We feel that Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO allies,” he added.
Price added that Sweden and Finland will have to discuss the next steps with Turkey.
— Amanda Macias
Poland could send Leopard tanks to Ukraine without Berlin’s approval, prime minister says
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, along with leaders from Belgium, Italy and Greece, will propose a plan for a ‘gas price corridor’ across Europe in an attempt to bring down soaring prices.
Thierry Monasse / Contributor / Getty Images
Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday.
The United States and its allies failed during talks in Germany last week to convince Berlin to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, a key demand from Kyiv as it tries to breathe new momentum into its fight against Russian forces.
Poland is pushing for countries who have German-made Leopards to send them to Ukraine, even if Germany does not want to join them.
“We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Morawiecki told reporters.
“The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”
Germany would not stand in the way if Poland sent its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday in an interview with French television LCI.
“Pressure makes sense, because this weekend, the foreign minister of Germany sent a slightly different message that gives a glimmer of hope that not only Germany will not block (sending tanks) but will finally hand over heavy equipment, modern equipment to help Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.
Norway detains former commander of Russian paramilitary group Wagner
A pedestrian walks past a mural depicting the logo of the Russian mercenary ‘Group Wagner’ and a slogan in Russian by the informal pro-Russia organisation ‘Narodna Patrola (lit.: People Patrol), on January 20, 2023 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Srdjan Stevanovic | Getty Images
Norwegian police have detained a former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway, but denied suggestions that he might be deported to Russia.
A Russian prisoners’ rights group, Gulagu.net, published a recording of a phone interview with Andrei Medvedev in which he urged Norway to let him stay and testify against the private military group, which has been fighting Ukrainian forces in some of the most brutal battles of the war.
Medvedev said he had been detained and handcuffed on Sunday at a hotel where he was staying and taken to a detention center. Gulagu.net said Medvedev had been told he faced deportation.
Asked about the claim, a Norwegian police spokesperson said: “No, this is not correct,” without elaborating.
Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, put the risk of his being deported at “zero,” adding he had been detained due to “disagreement” about measures taken to ensure his safety.
“He is under very strict security measures and we disagree about the way they are applied. These have caused frictions,” Risnes told Reuters.
Top U.S. spy agency says more security assistance from allies is crucial for Ukraine to prevail
Ukrainian soldiers outside the strategic city of Bakhmut on Jan. 18, 2023, in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The director of America’s top spy agency described Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “grinding conflict” that will require the West to continue to provide security assistance packages in order for Kyiv to prevail.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Sunday that both Ukrainian and Russian militaries are facing significant challenges but the war had not reached a stalemate.
“It’s not a stalemate but really, a grinding conflict where quite literally, we’re talking about hundreds of meters being fought over in the context of the frontlines,” Haines said in Davos, Switzerland.
“It will be extremely important for Ukraine to receive essential military assistance and economic assistance moving forward in order for them to be able to continue to manage what they have been heroically doing,” she added.
Read the full story here.
— Amanda Macias