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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed on Wednesday to send Leopard 2 heavy tanks to Ukraine, drawing the ire of Moscow as he said he wanted to avoid “an escalation” that would lead to war between Russia and NATO.

“We are doing what is necessary and possible to support Ukraine, but at the same time we are avoiding an escalation of the war, towards a war between Russia and NATO,” Scholz told the Bundestag, the bass of the Chamber of Deputies. parliament.

The German government had previously decided in the Council of Ministers to send 14 Leopard 2 Type 2A6s from the stockpiles of its army, the Bundeswehr, and to authorize its western allies to manufacture these German-made armored vehicles.

“This is an extremely dangerous decision that will bring the conflict to a new level of confrontation,” warned Russian Ambassador to Berlin Sergei Netchaev.

“This convinces us once again that Germany, like its closest allies, does not want a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis and wants a permanent escalation,” he said.

US President Joe Biden is due to speak at around 6 pm. The Swiss on “continued support for Ukraine,” the White House said, fueling speculation about an announcement to deliver Abrams tanks to that country.

“First step”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “sincerely grateful” for Berlin’s green light after speaking on the phone with Scholz.

For Andriï Iermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, however, this is just a “first step”. “We need a lot of Leopards,” he said.

The German decision is the result “once again of intensive consultations with our allies and our international partners”, explained Scholz.

“It would have been a mistake, a serious mistake, a serious mistake to have gone ahead alone on this issue,” insisted the social-democratic chancellor, pressured in recent weeks by all sides, including within his coalition with environmentalists and liberals, to give his approval without waiting.

Olaf Scholz has stayed true to his mantra of not going it alone when it comes to delivering arms to Ukraine.

Fears of a military escalation with Moscow and his reluctance to make Germany take the lead in the western camp largely explain his hesitations, analysts say.

“Helping Ukraine win”

Concretely, the objective of Berlin “is to join two companies of Leopard 2 as quickly as possible” and to be responsible for training Ukrainian soldiers in the use of these armored vehicles “quickly” in German territory.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius estimated that Germany’s first tanks could be in Ukraine within three months.

According to various media, the coalition of countries willing to supply Leopards also includes Denmark, the Netherlands, as well as Poland and Finland, which have already publicly announced it, the latter having reiterated on Wednesday that it would “imply”, without however specify whether it would send its own tanks to Kyiv or train Ukrainian soldiers.

Spain confirmed on Wednesday that it was also “willing” to be part of this group.

But so far only Poland has submitted an official request to Berlin, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

The Leopards will “boost Ukraine’s defensive capacity”, gloated London after the decision. Paris and Warsaw also welcomed Germany’s gesture.

“At a critical moment in Russia’s war, they can help Ukraine defend, win and win as an independent nation,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Especially since Russian troops on Wednesday claimed advances in Bakhmout, at the epicenter of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and where fighting is raging in some neighborhoods, according to a Russian occupation official.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian army also admitted having ceded Soledar, the neighboring town of Bakhmout, two weeks after Moscow announced its capture.

American tanks?

According to observers, these tanks, of which Kyiv claims hundreds of copies, are likely to give Ukrainian troops an advantage against the Russian juggernaut.

In addition to the Leopards, Ukraine is to receive other tanks.

The UK has already announced the delivery of 14 Challenger 2 heavy tanks to Ukraine. And according to the Wall Street Journal, which cites US officials, the US is finally considering supplying Abrams M1 tanks to Kiev, which it has so far refused to do. , citing maintenance and training issues.

“If the United States decides to hand over tanks, it will be impossible to justify such an act by arguments related to ‘defensive weapons’. This would be yet another blatant provocation against the Russian Federation,” Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov warned on Facebook.

Before the Bundestag, the German Chancellor made it clear that there was no doubt that NATO would intervene in the air and on the ground in Ukraine.

This article was automatically published. Sources: ats/dpa

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