(new: Statements by outgoing Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk)
BERLIN (dpa-AFX) – Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is relying on artillery and air defense for military support in Ukraine, despite growing pressure from his coalition partners. On Monday, Scholz dodged the question of the provision of Western battle tanks requested by the Ukrainian government. It “remains with the attitude that the German government has taken from the beginning and that will also be our attitude for the future, namely that there are no German solo efforts,” said Scholz in Berlin. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) also warned of this. SPD leader Saskia Esken did not rule out the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine, but insisted on international coordination.
Under pressure from a Ukrainian counter-offensive, Russia announced the withdrawal of its own troops from the Kharkiv region at the weekend. The troop movement sometimes seemed like a flight, leaving weapons and heavy equipment behind. The Ukrainian advance is seen as a stage victory in the reconquest of occupied territories, which is fueling hopes of a military turnaround beyond the country.
Federal Minister of Finance and FDP leader Christian Lindner pleads for additional support. “You have to salute the bravery of the Ukrainians. We have to check every day whether we can do more to help them in this war,” Lindner wrote on Twitter. “Ukraine must win this war.” The day before, the chairwoman of the defense committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), had demanded that Ukraine also be given the requested German Leopard 2 battle tank and Marder infantry fighting vehicle. The delivery list so far includes the Gepard anti-aircraft vehicle, the Panzerhaubitze 2000, multiple rocket launchers and the Iris-T anti-aircraft system as well as other weapons.
“Everyone in the government knows, however, that more would be possible,” said Green Party leader Omid Nouripour of the “Augsburger Allgemeine” (Monday) on the situation. “There should not only be an exchange of rings, but also, where possible, directly from the stocks of armed forces and industry.” As part of the ring swap, Germany is equipping its Eastern European NATO partners with Leopard main battle tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles, which in return are handing over older Soviet-designed tanks to Ukraine. Nouripour said: “Right now, before winter comes, we have to send Ukraine help liberate as many as possible of their own land this year.”
Outgoing Ambassador of Ukraine Andriy Melnyk stressed that the weekend’s gains would not have been possible without Western weapons. The federal government must give up its blockade of further deliveries, he told the television station Welt. “It can no longer be the case that you keep inventing a new excuse for not delivering what is necessary.” You can see that the arms deliveries saved lives.
Robin Wagener (Greens), chairman of the German-Ukrainian parliamentary group in the Bundestag, called for more to be done. “In the successful liberations of the past few days, we can see the military added value of Western arms deliveries: They create military territory gains without mass destruction and devastation. They reduce the number of war casualties on both sides. They shorten this war,” said Wagener. Regarding the question of further deliveries from Bundeswehr stocks, he wrote: “Our freedom is not being defended on the combat training grounds of the Federal Republic, but on the front in the Ukraine.”
Defense Minister Lambrecht said that at a meeting of the so-called Ukraine contact group last week, she asked her US colleague Lloyd Austin about tank deliveries. “At least I didn’t have this perception that there was a rethinking in the USA,” said Lambrecht. In a speech she also said: “Today Ukraine only exists because it can defend itself militarily. We have to learn from this: We need strong, combat-ready armed forces so that we can defend ourselves and our alliance if necessary.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Ambassador in Berlin, Sergei Nechayev, raised allegations. “The mere delivery of lethal weapons to the Ukrainian regime, which are used not only against Russian soldiers but also against the civilian population in Donbass, is a “red line” that the German government (…) should not have crossed,” Nechayev said in an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia on Monday. According to Nechayev, Germany is one of the driving forces behind the West’s sanctions policy against Russia. The ambassador therefore denied Berlin a mediating role in the conflict./cn/DP/jha