Germany approves Leopard 1 tank deliveries to Ukraine
Germany has approved a delivery of Leopard 1 main battle tanks to Ukraine from industrial stocks, government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit has said.
Hebestreit confirmed “an export licence has been issued” for the delivery by a private arms-marker of its older Leopard 1 tanks, but did not provide further details.
Süddeutsche Zeitung had reported that the German government approved German arms maker Rheinmetall’s plans to sell 88 of the older Leopards to Ukraine for a total cost of more than €100m.
Deliveries of the older Leopard 1 tanks from the industrial stocks could be made as soon as the tanks are repaired, the paper writes. However, there are still problems in obtaining the required 105-millimetre ammunition, it writes.
It comes after the German government announced it would send 14 Leopard 2 main battle tanks from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine.
Berlin is also considering buying back 15 Gepard tanks it had sold to Qatar, the German newspaper reported. It said several German officials had discussed with Qatar’s foreign ministry the possible purchase of Gepard tanks that Doha had bought to secure the World Cup stadiums.
The paper quoted Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, as saying:
The Gepards have proven themselves very well in the war in Ukraine. If we could get more from partners here, that would definitely help the Ukrainians.
Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here again, taking over the live blog from Martin Belam. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.
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Zelenskiy: Ukraine will fight for Bakhmut ‘for as long as we can’
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that Ukraine will continue to fight for Bakhmut as long as it can, vowing that “nobody will give away” the eastern “fortress” city.
Speaking at a news conference with top European Union officials, Zelenskiy said:
Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.
He said Ukraine could “be able to hold” Bakhmut and liberated occupied Donbas “if it received long-range weapons”.
Air raid sirens have sounded in Kyiv, my colleague Dan Sabbagh reports.
Air raid sirens on in Kyiv. Second time today. Should be sobering for EU leaders visiting.— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) February 3, 2023
Here are some of the most recent images sent over the news wires from Kherson in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne reports that at least one person has been killed by shelling in Donetsk. It posted to its official Telegram channel:
Russian troops shelled the centre of Toretsk in Donetsk region: one person was killed, six were injured. Kurakhivka was also shelled from artillery, three people were injured, the Donetsk regional prosecutor’s office reported.
The claims have not been independently verified.
Traders are using Turkey, Kazakhstan and Armenia to evade EU sanctions on Russia, a tactic that breaches these countries’ compliance with the bloc’s embargo, Latvia’s prime minister said on Friday.
Krisjanis Karins made the assertion after talks with counterparts from the EU member states Estonia and Lithuania, which along with Latvia have been among the most vocal supporters of sanctions on Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
“It seems quite clear that traders are finding ways to legally trade goods, say with Turkey, Kazakhstan or Armenia, which are then re-sent to Russia, because these countries are not adhering to the sanctions regime,” Reuters says Karins told reporters in Talinn, the Estonian capital.
Back with the Olympics for a moment, the Associated Press is reporting that the Olympic Committee of Ukraine has decided not to immediately boycott the Paris 2024 Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, but instead at its extraordinary general assembly held today, it approved plans to consult with and persuade sports officials around the world to take action over the next two months.
The committee members voted for “consultations on preventing the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in all international competitions and a possible boycott”.
Ukraine boycotted some sporting events last year rather than compete against Russians. The last multinational boycott of an Olympics was in 1998, when North Korea were joined by Cuba, Ethiopia and Nicaragua in boycotting the Seoul Olympics in South Korea.
The first task is to wipe off or cover up the Z, says Anatoly, 44, of the call sign infamously daubed on Russian hardware involved in the war in Ukraine. “We don’t want friendly fire later on.” Then the mechanics get to work.
In a secret location in Ukraine, within a vast warehouse that could be mistaken for a tank graveyard, what was once Russian – Soviet, in many cases – is being turned Ukrainian.
All the headlines have recently been made by the decision of Germany and a host of others to supply Ukraine with western heavy armour: Leopard 2s, Challengers and Abrams.
The names have become familiar and they may have the technical cutting-edge and firepower to turn the course of the Ukraine war, when they arrive and if in sufficient numbers.
But for all the efforts of the Nato allies, it is Russia that is unwittingly, and yet by some margin, Ukraine’s biggest donor of tanks today.
Oryx, the open-source Dutch intelligence defence analysis website, has collected photographs of 546 captured Russian tanks. It will be just a fraction of the total haul of tanks that were either abandoned by the fleeing Russian forces or seized in bloody battle.
The head of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has said it is for the Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete in the Games next year.
Tony Estanguet told Reuters he was “in favour of maintaining this symbol of universality for the Games” when asked about Russian and Belarusian participation.
The decision rested with the Games’ governing body, he added.
It’s not in the charge of Paris 2024 to decide who is allowed to participate, it’s about the IOC, it’s about the IPC, it’s about the international federations who will decide which delegations will be allowed to participate.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called on the IOC to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at the 2024 Paris Games. Allowing them to take part would be tantamount to showing that “terror is somehow acceptable”, Zelenskiy has said.
On Thursday, sports ministers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland called on international sports bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Olympics and other events while the war in Ukraine continues.
Poland’s sport and tourism minister, Kamil Bortniczuk, told Reuters he believed it would be possible to build a coalition of about 40 countries, including the US, Britain and Canada, supporting the call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics.
Here’s some more detail on the news that Ukraine has unveiled a criminal case against Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group of mercenaries fighting on the Russian side in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, said in a statement that his office has served “a notice of suspicion to the head of the private military company ‘Wagner’”, without identifying Prigozhin by name.
The head of this group is directly responsible for thousands of war crimes. He openly admits his role in the war against Ukraine and, with the Kremlin’s permission, resolves staff issues by recruiting tens of thousands of prisoners.
Under Ukraine’s criminal code, suspects in criminal cases must be informed in a “notice of suspicion”.
Kostin listed accusations against Wagner, including encroachment on Ukraine’s territorial integrity and waging an aggressive war. He added that Wagner fighters of all ranks would be held responsible, including those who fled abroad.
I am certain together with international partners we will ensure comprehensive responsibility both for every criminal who came to our land with weapons in his hands and also for their patrons who do business in blood.
Germany will not play key role in transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, says Kuleba
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said Germany will not play a “key” role in the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv because “it is American technology”.
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine earlier this week, saying his focus was on the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
In an interview with BBC News Ukraine, Kuleba said his country “really needs” planes and long-range missiles “to destroy the military infrastructure of the Russian occupying forces” in occupied territories of Ukraine.
He said he had “no doubt” that the decision to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets would be made, adding that Kyiv was “open to communication with all partners” on aircraft such as the Swedish Gripens, French Mirages and Rafales.
Asked about Scholz’s role, Kuleba said the issue of jets “is far from Germany”. He said:
Why was the position of Germany and Chancellor Scholz important regarding Leopard tanks? It is a [mass-produced] tank, but it is German technology, so Germany’s word was key.
In the issue of aircraft, Germany’s word is not key, because it is American technology.Plane
Among the blizzard of announcements aimed at showing the EU’s support for Kyiv, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said Europe is “bringing light to Ukraine”.
Von der Leyen has confirmed the EU will supply Ukraine with 35m LED lightbulbs, 2,400 generators on top of 3,000 already delivered and promised funding for solar panels to power Ukraine’s public buildings.
Together, we are bringing light to Ukraine!⁰
Ukrainians can exchange their old bulbs at the post office for energy-efficient LED bulbs.
The EU is gladly providing 35 million of them.
Every kW of energy saved is precious to counter Russia's energy war. pic.twitter.com/dkKpSRH6yv
Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said he was “grateful” to Von der Leyen.
Thanks to 🇪🇺, the programme to replace old light bulbs with energy-saving LED bulbs started this week. In the first 3 days, @ukrposhta has already replaced more than 750K bulbs. Next week, another 6M will be distributed in 🇺🇦 regions. Grateful to @vonderleyen for the initiative. pic.twitter.com/ZqvY7bFE0z— Denys Shmyhal (@Denys_Shmyhal) February 3, 2023
EU to launch humanitarian de-mining programme
The EU will launch a humanitarian de-mining programme in Ukraine worth €25m, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has confirmed.
De-mining is “crucial to save the lives of civilian population”, Borrell wrote on social media.
Demining action is crucial to safe the lives of civilian population, to allow them return to a normal life, to prevent the random walk of the death in the forest.
The EU will support Ukraine with a new €25 million package for humanitarian demining.https://t.co/udiK4YOL6F pic.twitter.com/Gp9H7qIgMz
Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, announced the programme after meeting with Borrell in Kyiv yesterday, posting to Telegram that it was an “important component of our recovery, which will allow us to return normal life”.
Norway has confirmed it will order 54 new German-made Leopard 2 tanks for its army from the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Group, with an option to buy a further 18 tanks at a later time.
Speaking at a news conference, the Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre said:
We ensure that we have the same tanks as our Nordic neighbours and many key Nato allies.
This “further strengthens our relationship with Germany”, he added.
Norway, which shares a 196km (122-mile) Arctic border with Russia, had planned to either order German-made Leopard 2 A7 tanks or the Korean-produced K2 Black Panther.
Norwegian police say they intend to continue to interrogate a former commander with the Russian mercenary Wagner group who sought asylum in Norway after fighting in Ukraine.
Andrey Medvedev, who had previously told the Guardian he feared for his life and that he had witnessed the summary killing of Wagner fighters, has handed “some digital material” to police, Norway’s national criminal police service, Kripos, said in a statement. The material was being examined, it added.
Medvedev remains a witness and is not under any obligation to talk to investigators, Kripos said, adding that he “gives the impression that he wants to continue to say more” about his time with Wagner.
Medvedev is the first known soldier from the Wagner group who fought in Ukraine to flee abroad.
Security arrangements have also been made for Medvedev’s safety, “both visible and non-visible” measures, Kripos added.
European Council president Charles Michel is in Kyiv, along with the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and 15 European commissioners to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for what they describe as a summit meeting.
The highly symbolic visit is the first EU political mission of its kind to a country at war, and comes as the bloc prepares to adopt a 10th package of sanctions against Russia.
“There will be no let-up in our resolve,” Michel tweeted as he arrived in the Ukrainian capital. He added:
We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU.