Zelenskyy calls for jets and long-range missiles as he thanks Western countries for sending 'game-changing tanks'

25 January 2023, 23:39

Mr Zelenskyy has urged further support for Ukraine
Mr Zelenskyy has urged further support for Ukraine. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked Western countries for agreeing to send powerful modern tanks to Ukraine, but called for them to supply long-range missiles and fighter jets to support the war effort further.

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Germany and the US both agreed on Wednesday to dispatch tanks to Ukraine to help the army in their ongoing struggle against the Russian invaders. The UK had already committed to sending its Challenger 2s.

Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadim Prystaiko told LBC's Andrew Marr that the promised new tanks were a "game-changer" that could help Ukraine push the Russian forces back further.

Speaking in a video address on Wednesday evening, Mr Zelenskyy said: "We must form a tank fist, a fist of freedom whose hits will not let tyranny stand up again."

But the Ukrainian president also called for more help to defeat Russia's "terrorist state".

Ukrainian Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko says Germany's tanks will enable Ukraine to 'clear up the land'

He added: "I've spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today... We must also open deliveries of long-range missiles to Ukraine, it is important - we must expand our cooperation in artillery.

"We have to achieve the supply of aircraft to Ukraine.

"This is a dream. And this is a task. An important task for all of us. The more defence support our heroes at the front receive from the world, the sooner Russia's aggression will end."

Mr Zelenskyy also thanked the US specifically for their "powerful" decision to send tanks, calling the move "an important step on the path to victory." the Ukrainian president tweeted, thanking Biden for his 'powerful' decision.

"Speed and volume are key now," he added in a separate message. "The terrorist state must lose.

Boris Johnson meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Boris Johnson meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Picture: Getty

"The more defence support our heroes at the front receive from the world, the faster Russia's aggression will end."

Germany said on Wednesday that it would send 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine and gave permission for 14 allies to send theirs too, striking a blow in favour of Kyiv as it continues to battle Russia's invasion.

The decision came after initial hesitation from Germany to send German-made vehicles to Ukraine following concerns it could escalate the conflict with Russia.

Ukrainian ambassador Vadim Prystaiko told Andrew the move was a "game-changer" because it could allow the Ukrainian army to push the Russians back to the border.

"This qualitative change will allow us to bring the war to a totally different level," he said.

German Ambassador to the UK and Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK join Andrew Marr

He added: "This is quality changes. Numbers are important. As you mentioned, we hope to receive hundreds of them... but the quality, that's what's interesting."

Russia branded Germany's move to send tanks to Ukraine a "blatant provocation" and issued a chilling warning that the new kit will "burn like all the rest"

German ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger said that not every statement from Russia should be taken seriously, adding that "we expected some fury to come from Moscow".

The US followed Germany's lead, announcing on Wednesday that it would send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing previous claims that they are unsuitable for use in war with Russia. The UK has already said it will send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.

The US is also sending Abrams tanks
The US is also sending Abrams tanks. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile Rishi Sunak held a call with Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, and German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Wednesday afternoon to discuss sending tanks to Ukraine.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said that the PM "welcomed the decisions by allies to announce major battle tank contributions".

“This decisive, collective action would be a catalyst for other countries to follow suit," she added.

“The Prime Minister said it was now clear Russia was on the backfoot, and there was a window for international partners to accelerate efforts to secure lasting peace for Ukraine.

“He called on allies to intensify their support in the coming weeks and months.

Read more: Ukraine conflict reaches 'new level of confrontation' Russia warns, as Germany and US send tanks to war zone

Read more: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz approves export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine amid mounting international pressure

“All the leaders welcomed the strong coordination of military supplies and reflected on the collective international action across the spectrum in support of Ukraine.

“They also welcomed the continued humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine in the wake of ongoing indiscriminate and barbaric Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure."

Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine at the Main Square on day 336 of Russian invasion on Ukraine
Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine at the Main Square on day 336 of Russian invasion on Ukraine. Picture: Getty

German ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger said sending tanks "was not an easy decision because of the implications [related to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union].

"But we have all seen how positively Ukraine was able to use Western armaments.

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"And we have also seen that there is no intention on the Russian side by Putin to look for a negotiated outcome. On the contrary, he is willing to continue with his war of aggression with destroying the Ukrainian state.

"And I think all of that together, led to the decision to form this coalition."

A Leopard tank
A Leopard tank. Picture: Getty

It is not clear when or how the tanks would be delivered to Ukraine, or how soon they could have an impact on the battlefield.

Military analysts have said Russian forces are thought to be preparing for a spring offensive.

The 400 million dollar (£323 million) package announced on Wednesday also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles - tank-like tracked vehicles that can tow the Abrams if it gets stuck.

Lieutenant General David Leakey calls James O'Brien to give an insight on tanks

Altogether, France, the UK, the US, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and heavy armoured vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines.

While Ukraine's supporters have previously supplied tanks, they were Soviet models in the stockpiles of countries that once were in Moscow's sphere of influence but are now aligned with the West.

Mr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials insisted their forces need more modern western-designed tanks.

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