New additions to Ukraine’s military include the tanks as well as Marder infantry fighting vehicles, Cougar armored trucks, and Stryker armored personnel carriers.
Germany and Britain have delivered the first consignment of battle tanks to Ukraine – providing much-needed ground support as Russian forces intensify attacks in the country’s east.
The Leopard and Challenger tanks were promised to Kyiv earlier this year and arrived on Monday in time for an expected spring offensive by Ukraine’s forces.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told journalists on Monday that Berlin provided “very modern” Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv with the defense ministry later saying 18 were delivered.
“Our tanks have made it into the hands of our Ukrainian friends as promised and on time,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said he inspected a “new addition” to the country’s forces – Challenger tanks as well as Germany’s Marder infantry fighting vehicles, plus Cougar armored trucks and Stryker armored personnel carriers from the United States.
“A year ago, no one would have thought that our partners’ support would be so strong,” Reznikov said.
Reznikov praised Britain’s Challengers calling the tanks works of “military art” and posting a video showing him sitting in one on an open field.
It was a pleasure to take the first Ukrainian Challenger 2 MBT for a spin.
Such tanks, supplied by the United Kingdom, have recently arrived in our country.
These fantastic machines will soon begin their combat missions.
thank you, @RishiSunak, @BWallaceMPand the 🇬🇧 people. pic.twitter.com/zoCRmKdBnN
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) March 28, 2023
As Ukraine gains conventional firepower, Russia vows to follow through on a plan announced by President Vladimir Putin to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, an initiative that drew widespread criticism.
In London, Britain’s government said Ukrainian crews – who have been training to use the Challenger 2 – are now ready to deploy to the front line.
“Ukrainian tank crews have completed training on challenger 2 tanks in the UK and have returned home to continue their fight against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion,” the ministry of defense said in a statement.
The training began shortly after London announced in January it would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine. The crews learned how to command, drive and “effectively identify and engage targets”, said the ministry.
“It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil,” said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
“They return to their homeland better equipped but in no less danger. We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Putin said last week that Moscow would be “forced to react” if Britain follows through on its promise to deliver to Ukraine armour-piercing ammunition fired by the tanks that contain depleted uranium,
In Adviika, a battered front-line town in the eastern Donetsk region, a Ukrainian official said on Monday that municipal workers were being withdrawn as Russian forces claim incremental gains nearby.
“It’s a shame to admit but Avdiivka looks more and more like a scene from post-apocalyptic movies,” the head of the town’s administration Vitalii Barabash said on social media.
“Therefore a difficult decision was made to evacuate … municipal workers who at least somehow tried to maintain the cleanliness and vitality of the city.”
Russian forces have been working to capture the entire eastern Donetsk region for months with the focus of fighting centering on Bakhmut, north of Avdiivka.
Russian forces were still trying to storm Bakhmut and had shelled the city and surrounding towns, Ukraine’s military said.
Front lines in Ukraine have barely budged for more than four months despite a Russian winter offensive. The Ukrainian military aims to wear down Russian forces before mounting a counteroffensive.
Ukrainian ground forces commander Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said last week the counterattack could come “very soon”, visited troops in the east and said his forces were still repelling Russian attacks on Bakhmut.
Defending the small town in the industrialized Donbas region was a military necessity, Syrskyi said, praising Ukrainian resilience in “extremely difficult conditions”.
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