Germany to approve sending heavy battle tanks to Ukraine, says source

  • Poland presents a request to Germany to supply tanks to Kyiv
  • The US may drop opposition to providing Abrams tanks
  • Governors of five Ukrainian regions among officials removed
  • Kyiv: Zelenskiy’s actions pay attention to public demand for justice
  • Ukraine says a spring offensive could be decisive

KIEV/BERLIN, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Germany has decided to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia’s invasion and allow other countries such as Poland to do the same, while the United States may supply Abrams tanks, a source familiar with . the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

A German government spokesman and the foreign and defense ministries in Berlin declined to comment.

Kyiv has for months advocated for Western tanks that it says it urgently needs to give its forces the firepower and mobility to break through Russian defense lines and recapture occupied territory in the east and south.

Separately on Tuesday, Ukraine dismissed more than a dozen high-ranking officials, including governors of several key battleground provinces, as part of an anti-corruption drive by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government, which is increasingly concerned about the need to keep its Western supporters.

Earlier, Poland said it had formally sent a request to the German government to allow it to send some of its Leopards to Ukraine, pushing Berlin closer to a long-awaited decision on allowing the re-export of NATO’s workhorse heavy tank.

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And two US officials told Reuters that Washington may drop its opposition to sending some of its Abrams tanks, in a move designed to encourage Germany to follow.

While the Abrams is considered less suitable than the Leopard for Ukraine due to its heavy fuel consumption and difficulty to maintain, the move could encourage Germany to make Leopards available.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Social Democrats are wary of moves that could encourage Russia to escalate the war, and what they see as a risk of the NATO alliance being drawn into the conflict.

Germany’s Leopards, fielded by armies across Europe, are widely regarded as the best option, available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain.

Germany’s military chief of staff said whether to send tanks was a political decision. A senior official said the choice ultimately lies with Scholz and his cabinet.

Front lines in the war, which stretch more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) across eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely frozen for two months despite heavy losses on both sides. Russia and Ukraine are both believed to be planning offensives.

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PURIFICATION OF LEADERSHIP

Ukraine has long struggled to root out high-level corruption but the campaign has taken on vital significance as the Russian invasion has made Kyiv heavily dependent on Western support and the government is trying to join the European Union.

Among Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed on Tuesday were the governors of Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Dnipropetrovsk are frontline provinces now. Kyiv and Sumy were important battlefields earlier in the war.

A deputy defense minister, a deputy prosecutor, Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development were among the others who left.

Some, though not all, have been linked with corruption allegations. Ukraine has a history of corruption and shaky governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.

Zelenskiy aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted: “The president sees and hears society. And he directly responds to a key public demand – justice for all.”

The purge came two days after a deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and accused of skimming $400,000 from contracts to buy generators – one of the first major corruption scandals to come to light since the war began 11 months ago.

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The Defense Ministry said Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, in charge of troop supplies, resigned to preserve confidence after what it called false media allegations of corruption. This was followed by a newspaper report that the ministry had overpaid for food for soldiers, which the ministry denied.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelenskiy’s office, announced his own resignation, also citing no reason. He helped run the president’s 2019 election campaign and more recently had a role in overseeing regional politics.

As the shake-up unfolded in a series of announcements, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a cabinet meeting that Ukraine was making progress in its anti-corruption campaign. “It is a systematic, sequential work that is very much needed for Ukraine and is an integral part of integration with the EU,” he said.

The European Union, which offered Ukraine candidate member status last June, welcomed the development.

“Generally we do not comment on ongoing criminal investigations, but we welcome the fact that the Ukrainian authorities are taking these matters seriously,” an EU spokesperson said.

Reporting by Reuters agencies, Writing by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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