Ukraine urges West to ‘think faster’ over tank deliveries as Russia launches offensive in Zaporizhzhia

Protesters call for Germany to send tanks to Ukraine (Getty Images)
Protesters call for Germany to send tanks to Ukraine (Getty Images)

A senior Ukrainian official has urged the West to move quicker on delivering tanks as Russia stepped up a barrage of missiles on Saturday.

The comments by Mykhailo Podolyak came amid Ukrainian calls for German-made Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine.

Allies pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in new military aid but were unable to agree on sending the battle tanks during a conference at the Ramstein Air Base on Friday.

Poland and several other countries have pushed for their stocks of the tanks to be sent. However, under German export law they need Berlin’s permission to do so, which they haven’t got so far.

“You’ll help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realize that there is no other option to end the war except the defeat of Russia," Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

“But today’s indecision is killing more of our people. Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster."

Critics have accused the German government of foot-dragging over supplies to Ukraine. However, Germany’s defence minister Boris Pistorious has denied blocking attempts to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, saying allies were still divided over the move.

Ukraine has asked for the tanks as they are easy to maintain and specifically designed to go against Russian-used tanks.

A broken tank near the frontline of Bakhmut (REUTERS)
A broken tank near the frontline of Bakhmut (REUTERS)

It comes as Russia claimed Saturday to have taken “advantageous” positions in the south-eastern region of Zaporizhzhia, after launching more than 160 shelling attacks.

Oleksandr Starukh, governor of the region, said that Russian forces launched over 160 shelling attacks in 21 towns and cities, killing one woman and injuring two others.

Ukraine’s president Volodymr Zelensky has said the Leopard-2 tanks sat in warehouses could help his country’s fight against Russia.

In a joint statement on Saturday the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania voiced direct criticism of Germany over the tanks, saying they “call on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now”.

Meanwhile, Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki hinted this week Warsaw could consider giving its tanks even without Berlin’s permission.

German officials have suggested they would prefer to send the tanks as part of a wider Nato package that includes America’s M1 Abrams tanks.

But the US has rejected this, saying the Abrams tanks are impractical for Ukraine’s forces because they are expensive to maintain.

Other countries have promised to send tanks, including the UK, which will send 14 Challenger 2s.

Separately, Mr Zelensky held an emotional meeting Saturday with the families of those who died in a helicopter crash in Kyiv earlier this week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena offer relatives their condolences during the funeral ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena offer relatives their condolences during the funeral ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)

He spoke with family members of seven of those killed in Wednesday’s crash in the Brovary area of the capital.

The helicopter carrying interior minister Denys Monastyrskyi and other senior officials crashed into a nursery school building in the residential suburb, killing him and about a dozen other people, including a child on the ground.

Mr Monastyrskyi, who oversaw the country’s police and emergency services, is the most senior official killed since Russia invaded Ukraine.

At the sombre service in Kyiv, Mr Zelensky and his wife laid flowers on the seven coffins draped in the blue and yellow flags of Ukraine.

The cause of the crash is not known but Mr Zelensky said earlier that it happened because the country is at war.