KYIV, Ukraine (AP)
The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament warned on Sunday that countries supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons risked self-destruction, a message that followed new promises of armored vehicles, air defense systems and other equipment, but not the battle tanks that Kyiv had requested.
Ukrainian supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine at a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, but the new pledge was overshadowed by the failure to agree on Ukraine’s urgent request for German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
The issue appeared to be nearing a resolution late Sunday, when Germany’s top diplomat said her country would not object if Poland decided to send some of its Leopards to Ukraine.
French TV channel LCI aired excerpts of an interview with Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock, in which she said her government had not received a formal request for approval from Warsaw, but added that “if we had been asked, we would not have interfered.”
Earlier on Sunday, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that governments that give Ukraine more powerful weapons could cause “a global tragedy that will destroy their countries.”
“The supply of offensive weapons to the Kiev regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” he said. “If Washington and NATO supply weapons that will be used to strike peaceful cities and try to seize our territory, as they are threatening to do, it will lead to a response with more powerful weapons.”
Germany is a major arms donor to Ukraine and has ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stockpile in preparation for a possible green light. However, the government in Berlin has shown caution at every step of increasing its commitments to Ukraine, a hesitation seen as rooted in its history and political culture.
French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said on Sunday that he would not rule out sending Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine and asked his defense minister to “work” on the idea.
Macron spoke during a press conference in Paris with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as their countries marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of a friendship treaty after World War II. In a joint declaration, France and Germany pledged to “continually support” Ukraine.
Macron said France would decide on the tanks based on three criteria: that sharing the equipment would not escalate the conflict, that it would provide effective and efficient assistance with training time, and that it would not weaken France’s own army.
Scholz did not respond to a question about the Leopard 2 tanks on Sunday, but emphasized that his country has already made a significant military contribution to Ukraine.
“The US is doing a lot, Germany is also doing a lot,” he said. “We are constantly expanding our supply of highly effective weapons that are already available today. And we have always coordinated all these decisions with our important allies and friends.”
Germany’s carelessness has drawn criticism, especially from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel particularly threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that if Germany does not agree to hand over Leopard tanks to Ukraine, his country is ready to create a “smaller coalition” of countries that will send theirs anyway.
“Almost a year has passed since the start of the war,” Morawiecki said in an interview with Polish state news agency PAP published on Sunday. “Evidence of war crimes by the Russian army can be seen on television and on YouTube. What else does Germany need to open its eyes and start acting in accordance with the potential of the German state?”
In Washington, two top lawmakers urged the United States on Sunday to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine in an effort to overcome Germany’s reluctance to share its own, more capable tanks.
“If we announced that we were giving just one Abrams tank, that would unleash” the flow of tanks from Germany, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s “This Week on Sunday”. “I hear Germany expects us to take the lead.”
Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke in favor of the US sending Abrams.
“If it requires us to send a few Abrams tanks to unblock getting Leopard tanks from Germany, Poland, other allies, I would support that,” Coons said.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said the US-led meeting at an air base in Germany “leaves no doubt that our enemies will try to wear us down or rather destroy us,” adding that “they have enough weapons” to achieve their goal.
Medvedev, the former Russian president, warned on his messaging app channel that “in the event of a prolonged conflict,” Russia may try to form a military alliance with “nations fed up with the Americans and their pack of neutered dogs.” »
Ukraine is asking for additional weapons because it expects Russian troops to launch a new offensive in the spring.
The Secretary of the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, warned that Russia may try to increase its attacks in the south and east and block the supply channels of Western weapons, and the conquest of Kiev “remains the main dream” of President Vladimir Putin. fantasies,” he said.
In the column of the online newspaper “Ukrainskaya Pravda”. he called the Kremlin’s goal in the conflict “total and absolute genocide, a total war of extermination.”
Among those calling for more arms for Ukraine was former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday. Johnson, who was photographed in the city of Borodyanka, Kyiv region, said that he came to Ukraine at the invitation of President Vladimir Zelensky.
“This is the moment to double down and give Ukrainians all the tools they need to complete the work. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement.
The past week has been particularly tragic for Ukraine, even by the standards of a brutal war that has lasted almost a year, as a result of which tens of thousands of people have died, millions more have been driven from their homes and Ukrainian cities have been destroyed.
A barrage of Russian rockets hit a residential complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on January 14, killing at least 45 civilians. On Wednesday, a government helicopter crashed into the building of a kindergarten in the suburbs of Kyiv. Among the 14 killed are the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, other officials and a child on the ground.
On Sunday, Zelensky promised that Ukraine would eventually win the war.
“We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united,” said the Ukrainian leader in a video address to the Day of the Unity of Ukraine, which is celebrated in memory of the unification of Eastern and Western Ukraine in 1919.