Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday pressed Western allies to provide Kyiv with more heavy weapons to fight Russia, on the eve of a key donor meeting.
A day after a helicopter crash outside Kyiv killed one of his key ministers, the Ukrainian leader called on Germany for its hesitation to supply its modern Leopard tanks – unless the United States also delivered tanks.
“There are times when we shouldn’t hesitate or make comparisons,” Zelensky told the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos via video link.
“When someone says ‘I’ll give the tank if someone else will also share the tank’ … I don’t think that’s the right strategy to go with.”
Zelensky’s latest impassioned plea for arms comes a day before the United States, Kyiv’s main backer, convenes a meeting of nearly 50 countries – including all 30 members of the NATO alliance – at the US-run Ramstein military base in Germany. Aid to Ukraine for military discussion.
“The main message there (at Ramstein) will be more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons and more modern weapons, because this is a fight for our values,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in Davos on Wednesday.
Several of Ukraine’s allies have announced plans to step up their military support to Kyiv this month despite the risk from Russia, notably Britain, which became the first Western country to pledge heavy tanks over the weekend.
Helicopter crash Investigation
The United States has pledged to send its powerful Bradley armoured fighting vehicles, while France has offered its highly mobile AMX-10 RC – offensive weapons long seen as off-limits by hesitant Westerners.
Sweden announced on Thursday that it would supply its own modern long-range Archer artillery units.
In Ukraine, air raid sirens rang out in Kyiv and across the country early Thursday, a day after a helicopter crash outside the capital killed the interior minister and 13 others near a kindergarten.
Zelensky said the investigation into the accident is ongoing, with several theories being examined.
The crash killed one of Zelensky’s key aides, 42-year-old Interior Minister Denis Monastirsky, who had been involved in the exchange of prisoners of war, among other tasks.
He was the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die since Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
EU chief Charles Michel announced Thursday that he was travelling to Kyiv to reiterate Europe’s support.
“I’m going to Kyiv,” Michel said in a video posted on his Twitter account.
Western allies have provided Ukraine with more and more sophisticated weapons during the nearly year-old war, though often for fear of retaliating and engaging in a full-scale war with nuclear-armed Russia.
Germany has been very cautious in providing heavy weapons, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz under mounting pressure from European allies to authorize the export of Leopard tanks ahead of Friday’s meeting.
A senior US congressman, Gregory Meeks, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said German leaders wanted Washington and Berlin to work together.
“Basically it has to be the United States and Germany. There’s no question about it,” Meeks told AFP.
But in Washington, Defense Secretary for Policy Colin Kahl said Wednesday that the United States was not “yet” ready to provide advanced Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing difficulties in maintenance and training.