Britain weighs up 'tanks to Kyiv' deal as Russia says it wants all of southern Ukraine

22 April 2022, 21:57

Britain is considering a tank deal with Poland and Ukraine
Britain is considering a tank deal with Poland and Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Britain is considering sending its Challenger 2 tanks to Poland so Warsaw can then transfer its own armour to Ukraine.

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The deal would see British personnel operate the Challengers for Poland.

In turn, the Eastern European state would then donate some of its own tanks to Kyiv for use in the newest phase of the war with Russia.

It comes as a senior Russian general said his military's aim is to secure "full control" over the Donbas as well as southern Ukraine - despite suggestions it may have lost up to 20,000 troops in the invasion so far.

"We are looking at sending tanks to Poland to help them as they send some of their T72s to Ukraine," Boris Johnson said amid his trip to India.

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The Czech Republic has already sent T72s to Kyiv.

The UK Ministry of Defence said on Friday: "The [UK] is exploring sending British Challenger 2 Tanks to [Poland].

"While no decisions have been taken, these would be deployed on a short-term basis and operated by UK personnel to bridge the gap between Poland donating tanks to Ukraine and replacements arriving."

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Such a tank deal would be a boost to Ukraine's hopes of fighting the Russians invading through the separatist Donbas region in the east.

Maj Gen Rustam Minnekayev, who serves as deputy commander of Russia's central military district, said: "Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population."

His reference to Transnistria will worry European observers. It is a breakaway region in Moldova where some Russian troops are based.

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Russia has previously used claims of "oppression" to justify its operations in Ukraine.

Its invasion has gone badly compared to what the Kremlin is thought to have hoped to have achieved by now.

The military had to give up on its push to the capital, Kyiv, an apparent attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected government there, and instead focus on the east and south.

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The Kremlin looks desperate for the chance to show Russians it has achieved tangible goals after it was later humiliated by the sinking of the Moskva, the Black Sea fleet's flagship.

It has tried to declare victory in Mariupol even as Ukrainians deny the city, which has been levelled in Russia's bloody onslaught, has completely fallen.

Nexta, a Belarusian media outlet and scourge of the country's pro-Putin despot Alexander Lukashenko, said on Friday that Russian casualty figures appeared to have been accidentally leaked.

"Pro-Kremlin resource Readovka reported about the death of 13,414 Russian soldiers while around 7,000 are being missed," Nexta tweeted.

"These numbers were announced at a closed briefing of Russia's Ministry of Defence. The post by Readovka has already been deleted."

The British Ministry of Defence said while Russia may seek to change its approach to operations in Ukraine in light of its poor performance, it is likely to continue to rely on bombardments to suppress the defenders and will be "frustrated" by being unable to overcome its opponents quickly.