Day 332 of the Invasion of Ukraine: After Ramstein the West is United in Aiding Kyiv, but No German Leopards for now

World » UKRAINE | January 21, 2023, Saturday // 12:14
Bulgaria: Day 332 of the Invasion of Ukraine: After Ramstein the West is United in Aiding Kyiv, but No German Leopards for now CTV News

Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:

A former US Marine has been killed in Ukraine

A former US serviceman from an elite part of the Navy who deserted in 2019 was killed this week in Ukraine, AFP reported, citing the US Navy.

"The Navy confirms that a former marine was killed in the city of Dnipro on January 18," a spokesman for the force said in a statement, specifying that he could not provide any information about the reasons why the former military man ended up in Ukraine.

Daniel Whitney Swift was part of the elite division of the so-called US Navy SEALs.

Authorities have been trying to dissuade American citizens from going to fight in Ukraine, warning they could be captured by Russian forces and become their hostages, but several Americans have been killed there since the Russian invasion began in February last year.

So far, at least five more Americans besides Swift are known to have died fighting in Ukraine, the Associated Press said, citing data from the State Department and the families of those killed.

In the first weeks after Russia's invasion, at least 6,000 people contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Washington to get information on how to volunteer in Ukraine. Half of those people were rejected because of a lack of military experience, a criminal record or because they were unfit to serve, Ukraine's military attache said last year.

An unknown number of Americans have joined forces with foreign fighters supporting Kyiv, and others are working as volunteers with aid groups and human rights organizations, the AP notes.

Ukraine is preparing a counter-offensive in the spring

Ukraine is preparing a counter-offensive, which should begin in the spring. This was announced by the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

He called on the allies to help Kyiv with arms for the counter-offensive. Foreign journalists who visited the area also report on the strengthening of Ukrainian positions near the Russian border.

In Kozacha Lopan, they no longer remember what life is like without war. It is located north of Kharkiv, 5 kilometers from the Russian border.

The town was one of the first to be captured by the Russians. For 6 months, the headquarters of the Russian group Wagner was located in Kozacha Lopan. On September 11, Ukraine took back the city.

The Russians left the town, leaving behind ruins and many testimonies of atrocities that are now being investigated as war crimes.

A year ago, daily trains traveled from Russia to Kozacha Lopan. The Russians came to the town to shop. But that has long been history.

The railway station is also a reminder of the completely bygone era. It is almost destroyed. For half a year, Wagner directed its operations from it. There were also the torture chambers.

Peace in Kozacha Lopan is unlikely to come soon. Because of the town’s proximity to Russia, they are now afraid of a new Russian attack there. Preventing any intentions of Moscow for another invasion of the city, Ukrainian units began to strengthen their positions around Kozacha Lopan.

The US advises Ukraine to wait with the offensive

Senior US officials are advising Ukraine to wait to launch another major offensive against Russian forces until the next shipment of US military equipment arrives and its troops are trained to handle it, a senior US government official said, quoted by Reuters.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a small group of reporters that Washington remains firm in its position that it will not provide Kyiv with Abrams tanks for the time being, amid disputes with Germany over Leopard tanks.

Any talks the U.S. is having with Ukraine about a possible counteroffensive are in the context of making sure Ukrainian forces spend enough time training how to use the new weaponry Washington is giving them, he said.

US officials believe any offensive will be more successful if Ukrainian forces benefit from training and a significant influx of new military equipment.

On Thursday, the US announced it would send Ukraine hundreds of armored vehicles to use in the war. A high-level US delegation was also in Kyiv in recent days, which included Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Deputy White House National Security Adviser Jon Finer.

Washington's message has been that Ukraine has spent a significant amount of resources defending the town of Bakhmut, and yet the likelihood of Russian troops pushing its forces out of the town remains too high, a government official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

If it does, it will not lead to strategic changes on the battlefield, he added.

One of the considerations is that Ukraine continues to put too many resources into defending Bakhmut, even as it prepares for an offensive against Russian troops to try to push them out of areas under their control in southern Ukraine.

Therefore, American representatives are trying to convince Kyiv to change its priorities in this regard, the government representative said.

According to him, the US is trying to convince Ukraine to change its approach in conducting hostilities, and as for the artillery, they advise the Ukrainian military not to try to respond to every projectile fired by Russian artillery, because that way Moscow will gain the upper hand gradually depleting the Ukrainian arsenal.

That's why Washington's new military aid includes armored vehicles so Ukraine can change the way it fights war, the government official said.

Bad winter weather makes fighting on the front lines difficult, but if it gets cold enough and the ground freezes, it will open up an opportunity for both sides to launch an offensive with armored vehicles.The American government representative confirmed that the USA does not want to send the Abrams tanks to Ukraine for now because they are expensive and difficult to maintain.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius yesterday denied that Berlin was unilaterally blocking the supply of Leopard tanks to Kyiv, but added that the government was ready to send them if there was consensus among the allies.

According to British intelligence, Russia is considering sending a small number of its new T-14 Armata main battle tanks to Ukraine. The battlefield use of these war machines, whose development began in 2009, has not been reported so far, British media reported.

A military intelligence summary published by Britain's Ministry of Defense said T-14 tanks were spotted in southern Russia in December in an area from which equipment is usually sent for the fighting in Ukraine.

Pro-government Russian media say T-14s are being prepared for deployment, but it is not clear whether Russia has already deployed the type of war machine to Ukraine, the report said, the BBC reported.

British intelligence believes that the transfer of the "Armata" will be carried out mainly for propaganda purposes, and the equipment will not be actively used in combat operations.

Kyiv announced that Ukrainian forces would train on German tanks in Poland

Ukrainian forces will train on Leopard 2 tanks in Poland, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was quoted as saying, despite the allies failing to reach an agreement to provide Kyiv with the German-made combat vehicles, Reuters reported, citing BTA.

Reznikov said this to the Ukrainian-language section of the Voice of America radio after participating in the meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where Ukraine's partners did not make a decision on the tanks. Any shipment of such equipment to Ukraine will require the approval of Germany, the country that produces the Leopard tanks.

Reznikov described the news of the training as a breakthrough and credited the success of Poland's efforts.

"We'll start with that and then we'll move on," he was quoted as saying by VOA.

Reznikov reiterated the hope expressed by other Ukrainian officials that Germany would reconsider its decision on the tanks.

"I'm optimistic," he added. "Because the first step has already been taken - we will begin training missions on Leopard 2."

Earlier, Reznikov expressed his gratitude on Twitter to the German government and people for their military aid and hospitality.

In his publication, he also included a photo of himself with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. "We had a frank conversation about Leopard 2. To be continued," Reznikov added in his message on the social network.

The US will declare Wagner a transnational criminal organization

The American government will declare the Russian private military company (PMC) "Wagner" as a transnational criminal organization, said the spokesman of the National Security Council at the White House, John Kirby, quoted by the agencies.

This definition would allow the US and other countries to restrict the international business of the mercenary army and its international network of supporters.

Next week, the US government will impose specific sanctions against the Wagner Group, Kirby said. He did not specify what they would be.

"Wagner is a criminal organization responsible for atrocities and human rights violations in Ukraine and around the world," Kirby said, adding that there is a growing rivalry between Wagner, the Russian military and Russian ministries. Washington sees tensions, for example, between the private military company and the Russian Ministry of Defense, he said, quoted by BTA.

Kirby added that in recent weeks, Wagner has also received a shipment of weapons from North Korea.

On November 18, according to him, a train left Russia for the DPRK, which was loaded in North Korea and returned to Russia the next day. There is visual evidence of this, he added. It is assumed that there will be more arms deliveries from the DPRK.

The Wagner Group is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are currently about 50,000 private army fighters in Ukraine, Kirby said. According to him, among them there are 10,000 mercenaries and 40,000 prisoners.

"Finally PMC Wagner and the Americans are colleagues. From now on, our relations can be called ‘conflict between criminal clans’", Prigozhin reacted ironically to the news last night.

He recently boasted that he was even buying American weapons despite the sanctions imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Prigozhin, close to Putin, is wanted by the FBI for meddling in the US presidential election. A cash reward was even announced for his capture.

The EU is in no hurry for now

The EU will not declare Wagner a terrorist organization for the time being, despite numerous appeals. At least this is not scheduled to happen at the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 January in Brussels.

This became clear from the answer to a question posed by Bulgarian media “Club Z” to a high-ranking representative of the Union.

However, the private military company will be a topic of discussion for the Council. The foreign ministers of the member countries will discuss the situation in the Sahel. As sources claimed, one of the threats to this African region is "Wagner". This group is known to have a presence in Mali.

In November 2022, the European Parliament passed the resolution calling for Wagner to be included in the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist activities.

A tenth package of sanctions against Russia will not be discussed at the Council, sources added. But they hedged against the possibility that one or more member countries would raise the issue. The sanctions could be discussed on January 25, at the regular meeting of ambassadors, and then given the green light for them, the Swedish presidency of the EU Council told Club Z.

Ramstein summit: West united in aid to Ukraine; no solution for German Leopards

The West will not slow down at this crucial moment for Ukraine's struggle to defend itself.” This was stated by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after the meeting of defense ministers of 50 countries supporting Ukraine in Ramstein, Germany.

"We will continue the effort, and based on the progress we have made today, I am confident that Ukraine's partners around the world are determined to do so," he said.

The US is committed to "leading this coordinated effort", and the start of this is the latest round of US military aid to Ukraine worth .5 billion.

Austin said today's meeting focused on Ukraine's air defense and armor needs, and the group "pushed hard" to synchronize those donations. This means every step - from the donation to the training, the support.

Several countries have offered "key donations" that will help protect Ukraine's skies and citizens, he said. France, Germany and the United Kingdom have donated air defense systems to Ukraine, including a Patriot system from Germany. The Netherlands has also said it is donating Patriot missiles and launchers and training, he said. Latvia and Estonia have also provided military aid.

"The defense industry must deepen cooperation against Russia's unprovoked aggression," Austin said.

He is confident that the group will remain united and continue to gain momentum in support of Ukraine. According to him, the military commitments made by the states show that the group's members "stand for a world where rules matter, rights matter and sovereignty is respected".

"It is not only about the security of Ukraine. It is about both European security and global security. It's about the world we want to live in and the world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit,” he said.

Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in his 43 years in uniform, "this is the most united NATO I have ever seen".

The meeting of defense ministers plays an "important role" in supporting Ukraine and is a "clear, unequivocal demonstration of the unity and determination of the allied countries," Milley said.

He described the latest package of US military aid as "a sign of our continued commitment to Ukraine".

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Germany has not yet made a decision on providing Leopard tanks to Ukraine, citing his German counterpart.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak also said at today's meeting of pro-Kyiv defense ministers in Germany that no decision has been made to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Blaszczak said he is still "convinced that building a coalition will end in success." He said: "The hope comes from the fact that the defense ministers of 15 countries met on the sidelines of today's conference and we talked about this topic."

Asked if he was disappointed by Germany's stance on sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Austin said the goal was "to provide the capabilities that Ukraine needs to be successful in the near term." He said the group had been "quite successful" in achieving that goal. He also pointed out that Germany had sent Marder vehicles and described the military aid package sent to Ukraine as "very, very capable".

"I truly believe that it will enable Ukrainians to be successful in the future. It's not dependent on a single platform, it's a combined arms effort that we've put together that I really believe will give them the best opportunity for success," he said.

The US defense secretary shared a clip of himself meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, during a meeting of dozens of defense ministers at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

"Ukraine's allies 'stand shoulder to shoulder' to support Kyiv," he wrote.

In turn, Reznikov thanked Austin, President Joe Biden and the American people on Twitter after the Pentagon announced another .5 billion military aid package for Ukraine. The package does not include tanks, with the US instead saying it will send Ukraine 90 Stryker combat vehicles and another 59 Bradley fighting vehicles, in addition to hundreds of thousands of ammunition.

NATO countries must replenish their stockpiles of weapons and ammunition as soon as possible, and this issue will be raised at a meeting of defense ministers in February, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a meeting of the contact group on Ukraine at the military base in USA in Ramstein, Germany.

"The Secretary-General said that NATO Allies must accelerate the production of weapons and ammunition and quickly restore their stockpiles. He said that the Alliance is working closely with the industry to meet these needs. This will be an important item in the agenda of the meeting of NATO defense ministers to be held in February," said a statement from the NATO press office.

At the same time, Stoltenberg advocated further arms supplies to Kyiv, fearing alleged "new offensives" by Russia.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said it would be "very, very difficult" for Ukraine to "forcefully expel" Russian forces from every inch of occupied territory.

He added: "What could happen is a sustained defense stabilizing the front, which will depend on the supply of military equipment that the West is sending to Ukraine and training."

Milley also said it was possible that Ukraine would conduct a "significant" tactical offensive operation to liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible.

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