Germany has again refused to commit to allowing German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine despite intense pressure from Kyiv and other allies.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Tuesday that Berlin has not changed its position on whether to allow German-made Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine — or to permit other countries with German-made tanks to send their units to Kyiv. Speaking after a visit to Berlin by NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Pistorius said the government still needed to assess the situation.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba helped to fuel expectations that a decision on tanks was imminent. On Monday, he said that the discussion over tanks was in the "final stage" and a decision only "half a step" away.
Kyiv has asked its allies repeatedly for Leopard 2 tanks to combat Russia's invasion, but Germany has been reluctant to send its own tanks, fearing Russia could see it as an escalatory move.
Ukraine and its allies held a defense summit in Germany on Friday, and they failed to reach a decision on tanks. Over the weekend, however, two German ministers suggested the country's position had thawed, as Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not block Poland from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine.
Biden administration preparing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, officials tell NBC News
The Biden administration is preparing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, three senior U.S. officials tell NBC News.
The decision to equip Kyiv with the weapons platform could come as early as Wednesday, the officials said, adding that the exact number of tanks in the administration's latest security package was still under deliberation.
What's more, the mighty M1A1 tanks will not be available to the Ukrainians for several months due to the colossal logistics and training requirements.
Read the full story from NBC News here.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. reiterates support for Finland, Sweden joining NATO
The Biden administration reiterated its support for both Finland and Sweden joining NATO at the earliest opportunity, after Helsinki said a pause was needed in trilateral talks with Turkey on the Nordic countries' application to join the military alliance.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price was repeatedly asked at a news briefing whether Washington would support Finland's possible accession without Sweden, but declined to comment on what he called a "hypothetical" and not a "live question right now."
"This has always been a discussion about Finland and Sweden… (about) moving from an alliance of 28 to an alliance of 30. That's what we want to see happen," Price said, adding that Finland joining NATO separately "is just a question that we're not entertaining."
Turkey's president said Sweden should not expect his country's support after a protest near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm at the weekend, which included the burning of a copy of the Koran.
U.S. ambassador to Russia meets with Russian counterpart, State Department says
The U.S. State Department confirmed that President Joe Biden's ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, met with her Russian counterpart at the Russian residence in Washington D.C.
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov shared a photo of the meeting on Twitter:
State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed the meeting but declined to elaborate on what the diplomats discussed.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. approves $125 million for Ukraine's energy sector, State Department says
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken co-hosted a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and other G-7 nation officials to vouch support for Ukraine's energy sector.
Blinken also highlighted a new $125 million package "to support the resilience of Ukraine's energy infrastructure, including procurements of high-voltage autotransformers, mobile gas turbines to support essential public services, and distribution substation repair equipment," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a readout of the meeting.
"The group committed to continuing its close coordination to deliver equipment and humanitarian support this winter, procure essential infrastructure, and support Ukraine's long-term vision to modernize and decarbonize its energy grid and integrate with the European system," Price added.
— Amanda Macias
Workers move to finish a modular housing complex in Lviv donated by the Polish government
Workers construct a modular housing complex donated by the Polish government as humanitarian aid for the temporary accommodation of evacuees in Lviv.
— Yuriy Dyachyshyn | AFP | Getty Images
Pentagon and White House won't confirm reports that U.S. will send Abrams tanks to Ukraine
The Pentagon and the White House would not confirm press reports that the U.S. is considering equipping Ukraine with M1 Abrams tanks.
"I have nothing to announce today," Pentagon press secretary U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.
The M1 Abrams serves as the principal battle tank for the Army and Marine Corps and has been used in nearly every battle since its introduction in 1980.
Biden administration officials have previously argued that the Abrams tanks require a significant amount of training and logistics support and therefore would not be an appropriate weapon for the conflict.
— Amanda Macias
Replacing weapons NATO allies sent to Ukraine could yield $21.7 billion in U.S. defense sales
Replacing weapons and other equipment NATO countries sent to Ukraine could lead to nearly $22 billion in sales for the U.S. defense industry, according to a report from the think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The FDD's Center on Military and Political Power also said that restoring the NATO allies' arsenals could also lower the Pentagon's cost of obtaining weapons.
"It would also enhance the quality of the weapons U.S. warfighters wield and strengthen U.S. defense industrial base capacity," the authors of the report added.
— Amanda Macias
Zelenskyy says Belarus not interested in joining Russia's war in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he does not believe Belarus wants to join Russia's war, but that Ukraine is preparing for any security challenges.
"We were not going to and are not going to attack Belarus. This is the main signal from the entire Ukrainian people to the Belarusian people. It is very important for us that Belarus does not lose its independence and does not join this disgraceful war despite anyone's influence," Zelenskyy said, alongside the Finland President Sauli Niinistö in Kyiv.
Zelenskyy acknowledged that Russian troops are in Belarus, Moscow's closest regional ally.
"Our task for the military is to prepare for any challenges. This is not easy, so we need the help of our partners, because our territory is very large. That is why we have restrictions on the amount of ammunition. Therefore, we have to prepare for any challenges," he added.
— Amanda Macias
'Doomsday Clock' closest ever to Armageddon in 70-year history due in part to Russia's war in Ukraine
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that it has moved its metaphorical Doomsday Clock closer than ever to midnight, the symbolic time of Armageddon, reflecting experts' assessment that humanity is confronting unprecedented threats to its existence.
The 2023 countdown time was set at "90 seconds to midnight," the group's leaders announced in a press conference at the National Press Club. This new time was 10 seconds closer to "doomsday" than it was set to a year ago.
Experts said the chief driver of the heightened threat level this year was Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's thinly veiled threat to deploy nuclear weapons in the conflict.
Read the full story here.
— Christina Wilkie
Navalny supporters put replica cell outside Russian embassy
Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny placed a replica of the tiny "punishment cell" he has repeatedly been held in outside Russia's embassy in Berlin, in an effort to raise awareness of his fate.
About 100 people — including Navalny's brother Oleg — attended the demonstration on the German capital's famous Unter den Linden boulevard, some holding placards calling for the release of all political prisoners in Russia, others for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes in Ukraine.
"There is a connection between what happens to Alexei Navalny and the war in Ukraine," said organizer Leonid Volkov, who chairs the anti-corruption organization Navalny founded more than a decade ago.
Volkov said the poisoning of Navalny in 2020 and his subsequent jailing upon returning from Germany — he is now serving a nine-year sentence for fraud — were part of a Kremlin crackdown on Russia's opposition before launching the attack on Ukraine.
— Associated Press
Germany still mulling over decision to equip Ukraine with Leopard tanks
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin has not yet decided whether to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.
"We are supporting Ukraine not to lose this war, to win it against Russia," Pistorius said in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.
"And to that end, Germany is doing more than practically any other ally except the U.S.," he added.
Pistorius declined to offer a timeline on a decision. The defense minister added that Chancellor Olaf Scholz's office will make the decision.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine soldiers on the frontline in Donetsk region.
Ukrainian servicemen hold the line in a trench on a frontline position in the Donetsk region on January 23, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images
Russia is 'opposed by almost the entire collective West,' army commander says
The chief of Russia's armed forces in Ukraine, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, said that Moscow is almost entirely opposed by the West in his first interview since being appointed to lead Russian efforts in the war.
Speaking to the government-owned Argumenty i Fakty news outlet, Gerasimov said "modern Russia has never known such a level and intensity of military operations. Our country and its Armed Forces are now opposed by almost the entire collective West," in comments translated by NBC News.
Gerasimov, who replaced Gen. Sergei Surovikin as the commander of the Russian invasion force in Ukraine in January, claimed that threats facing Russia included "the aspirations of the North Atlantic Alliance [NATO] to expand at the expense of Finland and Sweden, as well as the use of Ukraine as a tool for waging a hybrid war against our country."
Finland and Sweden previously pursued policies of military nonalignment with the West, but have both applied to join NATO since Russia invaded Ukraine last February. Turkey has voiced objections to their membership bids, with discussions still taking place over their prospective entry into the alliance.
Russia says the West, and specifically NATO, is fighting a proxy war against it in Ukraine. NATO has said Russia must not be allowed to win the war in Ukraine, fearing it threatens the sovereignty of Russia's neighbors and could spur Moscow's expansionist aims.
— Holly Ellyatt
People in Poland make trench candles for Ukrainian soldiers
Volunteers make "trench candles" during the workshop in Opole, Poland. The "Poland 2050" association organize workshops for Polish citizens who collected used cans, cardboards and candles to make trench candles for Ukrainian soldiers, for heating up a meal or warming up at the battlefront.
- Jakub Porzycki | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukraine purges officials and governors in biggest shakeup of war
Ukraine dismissed the governors of five battlefield provinces and an array of other senior officials on Tuesday in the biggest shakeup of its wartime leadership since Russia's invasion last year.
Among more than a dozen senior Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed on Tuesday were the governors of the Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. All five regions have been major battlefields over the past year, giving their governors an unusually high national profile.
A deputy defence minister, a deputy prosecutor, a deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development were among the others who left.
Some, though not all, had been linked with corruption allegations. Ukraine has a history of graft and shaky governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.
The purge came two days after a deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and accused of siphoning off $400,000 from contracts to buy generators in one of the first big corruption scandals to become public since the war began 11 months ago.
The Defence Ministry said Deputy Defence Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, responsible for supplying troops, had resigned to retain trust after what it called untrue media accusations of corruption. It followed a newspaper report that the ministry overpaid for food for troops, which the ministry denied.
The prosecutor's office gave no reason for the sacking of Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko, who had been under fire in Ukrainian media for taking a holiday in Spain. Though Zelenskiy did not name any officials in his address, he announced a new ban on officials taking holidays abroad.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelenskiy's office, announced his own resignation, also citing no reason. He had helped run the president's 2019 election campaign and more recently had a role in overseeing regional policy.
Ukraine's power shortages are still 'significant,' grid operator says
Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenergo said power shortages in the country remains significant.
In a post on Facebook, Ukrenergo said Russian attacks on electricity infrastructure were still the main cause of the shortages. "Russian missile and drone attacks have damaged power plants (power generating) and high-voltage networks," it noted, in comments translated by Google.
"The last attack of the Russians on January 14 caused significant damage to several power units of thermal power plants" with electricity production at other plants unable to meet consumption demands. Consumption restrictions remain in place across Ukraine.
— Holly Ellyatt
Germany receives Polish request to give Ukraine tanks, says Poland
Germany has now received Poland's official request to re-export Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Polish defence minister said on Tuesday, as Warsaw cranks up the pressure on Berlin to give its approval.
Ukraine wants the German-made Leopard 2, one of the most widely used Western tanks, to help it break through Russian lines and recapture territory this year.
Germany, whose approval is required for re-exports of the Leopard, has held back, wary of prompting Moscow to escalate the conflict.
"The Germans have already received our request for permission to transfer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine," Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.
"I also appeal to the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks," he added. "This is our common cause, because the security of the whole of Europe is at stake!"
Berlin has said it is willing to act quickly if there is a consensus among those allies.
A spokesperson for the German economy ministry could not immediately be reached by telephone and did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.
On Sunday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said Berlin would not stand in Poland's way if it chose to ask and, on Monday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Germany was not blocking the export of the tanks.
Finland says time-out needed in talks with Turkey over NATO bid
Finland's foreign minister said on Tuesday a time-out of a few weeks was needed in Finland and Sweden's talks with Turkey on their application to join the NATO military alliance.
Turkey's president said on Monday that Sweden should not expect his country's support after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm at the weekend, which included the burning of a copy of the Koran.
"A time-out is needed before we return to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust has settled after the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn yet," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I think there will be a break for a couple of weeks."
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after Russia invaded of Ukraine, and now need the backing of all current NATO states to advance their application.
But Turkey has said Sweden in particular must take a clearer stance against what Ankara sees as terrorists: mainly Kurdish militants, and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday announced that presidential and parliamentary elections would be brought forward a month to May 14.
Haavisto said he had spoken on Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
"Of course they feel the pressure from the upcoming elections in mid-May and because of that the discussion understandably has become heated in many ways in Turkey," Haavisto said.
Finland and Sweden have repeatedly said they plan to join the alliance simultaneously and Haavisto said he saw no reason to consider whether Finland might go it alone.
Germany refuses to shift position on tanks, for now
Germany has again refused to commit to allowing German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine despite intense pressure.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Tuesday there has been no change in Berlin's position on whether to allow German-made Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, or on permitting other countries with German-made tanks to send their units to Kyiv. He added that the government still needed to assess the situation.
"I can tell you there is no new information here, the situation has not changed, and we are preparing our decision, which will come very soon," he said at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
"We are looking into the matter, what the current status is regarding our Leopard tanks," he said in translated comments. He noted that Berlin was looking not only at its inventory and industry stocks, but also at the compatibility of its tanks for combat in Ukraine, as well as issues around the logistics of supply and maintenance.
Aware that Berlin's reluctance over tanks has attracted widespread criticism, Pistorius insisted that Germany was one of Ukraine's top military supporters aside from the U.S. and U.K., and that this was "often forgotten in the public discussion."
— Holly Ellyatt
Reshuffle of top Ukraine government posts to take place, vacations abroad banned
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday evening that there was going to be a reshuffle of senior government posts.
"There are already personnel decisions — some today, some tomorrow — regarding officials of various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in the law enforcement system," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
The president noted that a decision had been made by the National Security and Defence Council that government officials "will no longer be able to travel abroad for vacation or for some other non-governmental purpose."
The decision applied to all officials of the central authorities and various other levels of local government, he said, "as well as law enforcement officials, people's deputies, prosecutors, and all those who have to work for the state and within the state."
"If they want to rest now, they will rest outside the public service," he said.
A close aide of Zelenskyy resigned Tuesday morning, although it's unknown whether it is connected to the president's announcement.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, did not give a reason for his departure in a Telegram post. He thanked the president "for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute."
One of Zelenskyy's communications advisors, Oleksiy Arestovych, resigned last week after suggesting a Russian missile strike on a Dnipro apartment building that killed 45 people had been the result of Ukrainian air defenses shooting down the missile.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine says tanks decision 'half a step' away; Berlin under pressure to decide
A decision on whether to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is in its final stages, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday, with only a last "half step" to be taken.
"We have only half a step left to take in the matter of tanks," Kuleba said during a nationwide news telethon reported by news outlet Ukrinform Monday.
"We have already received the British Challengers [tanks], which we were once told were impossible. We are already receiving French tanks – light ones so far. We hear that France is considering the provision of Leclerc tanks. I have no doubts that the Leopard tanks will reach us. We are at the final stage," Kuleba said.
Germany is under intense pressure to decide whether to give the greenlight for German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine. NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is traveling to Berlin Tuesday to meet German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and a press conference is due at 9:15 a.m. local time.
Kyiv has asked its allies repeatedly for Leopard 2s to combat Russia's ongoing invasion, but Germany has been reluctant to send them, or to allow other countries to send their own Leopard 2s, fearing it could be seen as an escalatory move by Russia. So far, only the U.K. has sent 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.
Kuleba acknowledged that it was a difficult decision for Germany because it is "such a country, there are specifics, it must be taken into account." "But, in the end, we always got the necessary result, and this time we will get the same result," he said.
Commenting on Germany's delay in resolving the issue of providing tanks to Ukraine, he said Kyiv had told its German partners that the sooner they make a decision on tanks, "the less blood of Ukrainian soldiers will be shed and the fewer Ukrainian lands will be under occupation," Ukrinform reported.
— Holly Ellyatt
NATO chief set to visit Germany as tanks debate rages
NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin on Tuesday.
The meeting comes amid palpable frustration in Europe regarding Germany's failure to make a decision about allowing German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
Kyiv has been requesting Leopard 2 tanks from its European allies for months, saying it needs them to fight Russia as the war approaches its one-year mark.
Germany has appeared reluctant to either send its own Leopard 2s, or to allow other countries with the tanks to re-export them to Ukraine, fearing it could be seen as an escalatory move by Russia. Berlin was also said to be ready to send such tanks only if the U.S. sent its own Abrams tanks.
NATO announced Monday that Stoltenberg was making the trip to Berlin, raising expectations that Germany could be ready to announce it is ready to allow tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
At the weekend, both Pistorius and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock signaled that a decision would be made, and that Poland would not be blocked from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine, with or without Berlin's permission.
— Holly Ellyatt
State Department reaffirms Finland and Sweden's ascension to NATO
The State Department reaffirmed U.S. support for Finland and Sweden's ascension to NATO as Hungary and Turkey consider ratifying the two nations into the alliance.
"You've heard this from the administration. You've heard this from members of Congress, we strongly support their NATO candidacies, Finland and Sweden are ready to join the alliance. They are ready to join the alliance because of their military capabilities and abilities," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press briefing.
"We are also cognizant of the fact that those who may be behind what has taken place in Sweden may be engaging in an intentional effort to try to weaken unity across the Atlantic and within and among our European allies and partners. We feel that Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO allies," he added.
Price added that Sweden and Finland will have to discuss the next steps with Turkey.
— Amanda Macias
Poland could send Leopard tanks to Ukraine without Berlin's approval, prime minister says
Germany's approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday.
The United States and its allies failed during talks in Germany last week to convince Berlin to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, a key demand from Kyiv as it tries to breathe new momentum into its fight against Russian forces.
Poland is pushing for countries who have German-made Leopards to send them to Ukraine, even if Germany does not want to join them.
"We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval ... we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine", Morawiecki told reporters.
"The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries."
Germany would not stand in the way if Poland sent its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday in an interview with French television LCI.
"Pressure makes sense, because this weekend, the foreign minister of Germany sent a slightly different message that gives a glimmer of hope that not only Germany will not block (sending tanks) but will finally hand over heavy equipment, modern equipment to help Ukraine," Morawiecki said.
Norway detains former commander of Russian paramilitary group Wagner
Norwegian police have detained a former commander of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway, but denied suggestions that he might be deported to Russia.
A Russian prisoners' rights group, Gulagu.net, published a recording of a phone interview with Andrei Medvedev in which he urged Norway to let him stay and testify against the private military group, which has been fighting Ukrainian forces in some of the most brutal battles of the war.
Medvedev said he had been detained and handcuffed on Sunday at a hotel where he was staying and taken to a detention center. Gulagu.net said Medvedev had been told he faced deportation.
Asked about the claim, a Norwegian police spokesperson said: "No, this is not correct," without elaborating.
Medvedev's Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, put the risk of his being deported at "zero," adding he had been detained due to "disagreement" about measures taken to ensure his safety.
"He is under very strict security measures and we disagree about the way they are applied. These have caused frictions," Risnes told Reuters.
Top U.S. spy agency says more security assistance from allies is crucial for Ukraine to prevail
The director of America's top spy agency described Russia's war in Ukraine as a "grinding conflict" that will require the West to continue to provide security assistance packages in order for Kyiv to prevail.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told CNN's Fareed Zakaria during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Sunday that both Ukrainian and Russian militaries are facing significant challenges but the war had not reached a stalemate.
"It's not a stalemate but really, a grinding conflict where quite literally, we're talking about hundreds of meters being fought over in the context of the frontlines," Haines said in Davos, Switzerland.
"It will be extremely important for Ukraine to receive essential military assistance and economic assistance moving forward in order for them to be able to continue to manage what they have been heroically doing," she added.
Read the full story here.
— Amanda Macias