- Poland submits an order to Germany to supply tanks to Kyiv
- The United States may drop its opposition to providing Abrams tanks
- Governors of five regions of Ukraine were sacked from among the officials
- Kyiv: Zelensky’s actions answered the public call for justice
- Ukraine says the spring offensive could be decisive
Kyiv/BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has decided to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion and let other countries like Poland do the same, while the United States may supply Abrams tanks, a source familiar with the matter said. He told Reuters on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the German government and the foreign and defense ministries in Berlin declined to comment.
Kyiv has pleaded for months for Western tanks, saying it desperately needs to give its forces the firepower and mobility to break through Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territories to the east and south.
Separately, Ukraine on Tuesday sacked more than a dozen senior officials including the governors of several key battleground provinces, part of an anti-corruption campaign by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government made more important by the need to keep its Western backers on side.
Earlier, Poland said it had sent a formal request to the German government to allow it to send some Panthers to Ukraine, prompting Berlin to make a long-awaited decision on allowing the re-export of the giant NATO heavy tank.
Two US officials told Reuters that Washington may drop its opposition to sending some Abrams tanks, in a move aimed at encouraging Germany to follow suit.
While the Abrams are considered less suitable than the Leopard for Ukraine due to their higher fuel consumption and difficulty in maintaining, the move could encourage Germany to provide the Leopards.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats are wary of moves that could spur Russia to escalate the war, and what they see as the risk of NATO being drawn into the conflict.
Fielded by armies all over Europe, the German Panthers are widely seen as the best choice, available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain.
The German Army Chief of Staff said that the decision to send tanks was a political one. A senior official said the choice ultimately rested with Schulz and his government.
The front lines in the war, which stretches more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) across eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely frozen in place for two months despite heavy casualties on both sides. It is widely believed that Russia and Ukraine are planning attacks.
Ukraine has long struggled to root out high-level corruption, but the crackdown has taken on vital significance as Russia’s invasion makes Kyiv deeply dependent on Western support and the government seeks to join the European Union.
Among the Ukrainian officials who resigned or were sacked on Tuesday were the governors of Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. Neighboring Kherson, Zaporizhia and Dnipropetrovsk are now front-line provinces. Kyiv and Sumy were major battlefields earlier in the war.
A deputy defense minister, a deputy prosecutor general, a deputy chief of Zelensky’s office, and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development were among the others who left.
Some, though not all, have been linked to allegations of corruption. Ukraine has a history of graft and fragile governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable proxy for billions of dollars in Western aid.
Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelensky’s aide, tweeted: “The president sees and hears society. He responds directly to a key public demand – justice for all.”
The purge came two days after the deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and accused of siphoning off $400,000 in contracts to buy generators — one of the first major corruption scandals to be publicized since the war began 11 months ago.
The Defense Ministry said Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who is in charge of supplying the forces, had resigned to maintain confidence after what it said were false media accusations of corruption. This followed a press report that the ministry overpaid for food to the troops, which the ministry denied.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelensky’s office, announced his resignation, without giving any reason. He helped run the president’s 2019 election campaign, and most recently had a role overseeing regional policy.
As the change began 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 and sequential work, which is very necessary for Ukraine and an integral part of integration with the European Union,” he said.
The European Union, which offered Ukraine candidate member status last June, welcomed the development.
An EU spokeswoman said: “As a general rule, we do not comment on ongoing criminal investigations, but we welcome the fact that the Ukrainian authorities take these cases very seriously.”
(Reporting from the Reuters offices; Writing by Peter Graf and Alex Richardson; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrichs)
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