Germany approves sending heavy battle tanks to Ukraine

  • Poland submitted a request to Germany to supply tanks to Kiev
  • US may drop opposition to delivery of Abrams tanks
  • Among the officials were fired governors of five Ukrainian regions
  • Kyiv: Zelensky’s actions heed public call for justice
  • Ukraine says spring offensive will be decisive

KYIV/BERLIN, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Germany has decided to send Cheetah 2 tanks to Ukraine to fight a Russian invasion and allow other countries such as Poland to do the same, while the United States may offer Abrams tanks. This was reported to Reuters on Tuesday.

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

Kiev has been appealing for Western tanks for months, saying its forces desperately need firepower and mobility to break through Russia’s defensive lines and recapture occupied territory in the east and south.

Separately on Tuesday, Ukraine sacked a dozen senior officials, including the governors of several major battleground provinces, further criticizing President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government’s need to sideline its Western backers as part of an anti-corruption drive.

Earlier, Poland said it had sent a formal request to the German government to allow some of its Leopards to be sent to Ukraine, pushing Berlin toward a long-awaited decision to re-export the NATO workhorse heavy tank.

Two U.S. officials told Reuters Washington may drop its opposition to sending some of its Abrams tanks, designed to encourage Germany to follow suit.

Although the Abrams is considered less suitable than the Cheetah for Ukraine due to its high fuel consumption and difficulty in maintenance, the move will encourage Germany to supply the Cheetahs.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is wary of moves by the Social Democrats that could provoke Russia to escalate the war and the risk of the NATO alliance being drawn into the conflict.

Germany’s Panthers, fielded by militaries across Europe, are widely seen as the best choice, available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain.

Germany’s army chief said sending the tanks was a political decision. A senior official said the choice was ultimately up to Scholes and his cabinet.

The battle’s front lines, which stretch 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) through eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely frozen for two months despite heavy losses on both sides. Russia and Ukraine are widely believed to be planning the attacks.

Removal of leadership

Ukraine has long struggled to root out high-level corruption, but the Russian invasion has made Kiev heavily dependent on Western support, and the campaign has taken on major importance as the government scrambles to join the European Union.

Ukrainian officials who resigned or were fired on Tuesday included the governors of Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and nearby Dnipropetrovsk are now leading provinces. Kyiv and Sumy were major battlegrounds before the war.

Others who left included a deputy defense minister, a deputy prosecutor, the deputy head of Zelenskiy’s office and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development.

Some, though not all, are linked to allegations of corruption. Ukraine has a history of patchy and shaky governance, and it is under international pressure to show itself as a credible steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.

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

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

The Defense Ministry said Vyacheslav Shapovalov, the deputy defense minister responsible for supplying troops, had resigned to maintain credibility after he made untrue media allegations of corruption. Following a newspaper report that the ministry had paid too much for food for the troops, the ministry denied it.

Kyrillo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Zelensky’s office, announced his own resignation without reason. He helped run the president’s 2019 election campaign and recently had a role in overseeing regional policy.

As the shakeup unfolded in a series of announcements, Prime Minister Denis Schmihal told a cabinet meeting that Ukraine was making progress in its anti-corruption campaign. “This is systematic, continuous work, which is very necessary for Ukraine and is an integral part of integration with the European Union,” he said.

The EU, which granted Ukraine candidate membership status last June, welcomed the development.

“As a general rule we do not comment on ongoing criminal investigations, but we welcome the fact that the Ukrainian authorities are taking these issues seriously,” an EU spokesperson said.

Reporting by Reuters Bureaus Writing by Peter Graf and Alex Richardson Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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