Day 334 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Germany will Not Stop Poland from Sending Leopard Tanks
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Zelensky: A new offensive of the Russian Federation can be launched in any direction
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that a new offensive by the Russian Federation could be launched in any direction. In an interview with Germany's ARD television, he noted that there is now a big gap between Ukraine's and Russia's worldviews, as Putin thinks about where to attack and Ukrainians where to defend. Meanwhile, Poland has requested to create an alliance of countries willing to send Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv.
An air alert was declared last night in six Ukrainian regions. At the same time, Russian troops continue to gather forces for the offensive towards Bakhmut and try to attack the Ukrainian units in the direction of Zaporizhzhia and Avdeyevka, the Ukrainian military reports.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that her country would not stand in the way if Poland decides to provide part of its Leopard tanks to Ukraine. So far, however, Berlin has not agreed to provide tanks directly to Kyiv. Earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that Poland could create a "small tank coalition" to provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks if no agreement was reached in Germany to send them. This month, Poland and Finland expressed willingness to supply the German-made machines in response to Kyiv's requests. However, re-export requires the formal consent of Berlin.
Meanwhile, in his evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised decisive action against abuses in the state apparatus after a corruption scandal in Kyiv. Allegations of high-level corruption include a report of dubious military procurement practices, even as officials promote national unity to resist Russian invasion. Zelensky said that "appropriate solutions" have already been prepared and emphasized:
"I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what was in the past, to the way different people, close to state institutions, or those who have pursued some post all their lives, lived."
The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements for Ukraine's membership after it granted Kyiv candidate status last year.
Zelensky: Ukraine can win the war this year
“Ukraine can win the war with Russia this year, provided Ukrainians remain united.”
This was stated by President Volodymyr Zelensky, rejecting claims that a partial victory for Ukraine is acceptable.
“The end of the war depends on the power inside Ukraine and the power outside - the help of partners. We must not allow the processes to be delayed, because this will prolong the war,” Zelensky also said.
According to him, corruption - a chronic problem of the country, pushed to the background by Russia's aggression - will not be tolerated, and this week key decisions will be made to eradicate it.
Germany changed its position on tanks for Ukraine
Germany will not stop Poland from sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. This is what the German foreign minister said in an interview with French television. Annalena Baerbock explained that there is no official request yet, but if such a request comes, Berlin will not stop the transfer of tanks.
The Leopard 2s are German-made and there is a clause in the sales contract that Germany must allow them to be used by a third country. Ukraine has wanted this model of tanks, which is considered modern and capable, for months. So far, Poland and Finland have expressed their intention to send such machines to the country.
Against this background, the French president indicated that the country does not rule out sending its heavy tanks to Ukraine.
"As for the Leclerc tanks, I have assigned the Minister of Defense to work on the matter. We are not ruling out any option. The decision must be made collectively, based on three criteria. First, that it does not escalate the conflict - a line we have always followed. Second, that it will bring real benefits to our Ukrainian friends. Third - assessment of the capacity to maintain them in operational condition and preparation for their use", Macron specified.
Morocco sent about 20 of its Soviet T-72B tanks to Ukraine
The Moroccan army has handed over 20 of its Soviet T-72B tanks to Ukraine, the Algerian specialized publication MenaDefence reported. Morocco thus became the first African country to send weapons to Ukraine, which is defending itself against Russian aggression.
The exact number of tanks that have been modernized at military factories in the Czech Republic is not known, the Algerian publication said. A week ago, about 20 machines were sent to the front in Ukraine, which were noticed in a report from the visit of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala to the workshops of the military company Excalibur Army in Šternberk, Olomouc region, which carried out their renovation.
The Moroccan army had 148 T-72s, 136 T-72Bs and 12 T-72BKs from the stocks of the Belarusian army, purchased second-hand in two batches in 1999 and 2000. At that time, Morocco wanted to form a "Russian" brigade, based in the north of the country, to deter Algerian armored divisions.
MenaDefence claims that Morocco's decision to supply arms to Ukraine was made, almost under duress, during the Rammstein summit on Ukraine on April 26, 2022. Morocco and Tunisia were the only countries from the African continent at that meeting. By this point, Tunisia had already sent two cargo planes of aid to Ukraine to the airport in the Polish city of Rzeszow, which is a hub for logistical aid to Ukraine, and, as the publication notes, Morocco appears
At the time, Tunisia had sent two cargo planes with humanitarian aid to Poland's Rzeszow airport, which centralizes logistical support for Ukraine, and there Morocco appears to have followed suit, sending not humanitarian aid but outright weapons.
In the photos from January 9 this year from the visit of the Czech Prime Minister to the military factories, the old Moroccan tanks can be seen on the repair line, and the least that can be said is that the extensive renovation of the chassis of the tank shows that they were very badly maintained and that Morocco does not have the means to keep them moving, commented critically the Algerian publication, which supports the country's official pro-Russian policy. The turrets of the tanks have been preserved in their original colors and have not been tampered with.
In November of this year, the armies of Russia and Algeria held a joint exercise near the borders with Morocco, announced as an anti-terrorist exercise. The exercise was billed as the largest since Algeria and Moscow established military cooperation during the Soviet era.
Surprise from Macron: France might give Kyiv the Leclerc supertanks
The Ukrainian Armed Forces will receive one of the best tanks in the world - the French Leclerc.
It was rumored a few days ago, but so far there hasn't been any confirmation from an official source. Yesterday, however, the plan for Ukraine to receive this type of armament received confirmation from the highest possible level - from President Emmanuel Macron!
"Regarding the possibility of supplying the Leclerc main battle tank to Ukraine, I have instructed the Minister of Defense to work on this. Nothing is excluded and indeed such an action receives collective support," the French president said in Paris yesterday.
However, Macron pointed out that it is important that such a decision, on the one hand, does not lead to an escalation of the conflict, and on the other hand, the weakening of the defense potential of the French army should not be allowed.
Military experts around the world are unanimous that the Leclerc tanks are extremely good, but until now the possibility of their delivery for the needs of the Armed Forces was not discussed at all due to the fact that only a few hundred of them were produced. So far, Paris is helping Kyiv with the supply of artillery, air defense, armored personnel carriers and AMX-10 RC light wheeled tanks.
The head of the self-proclaimed DPR visited Soledar
The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, said he visited the town of Soledar, which Russia claims it captured earlier this month, Reuters reported.
Pushilin posted a short video on Telegram on Sunday, showing him driving and walking through uninhabited areas and destroyed buildings. "I visited Soledar today," Pushilin said in the accompanying message. Reuters specifies that it cannot confirm from independent sources when and where the video recording was made.
On January 11, Russia's private military company Wagner announced it had captured Soledar, and Russian-appointed authorities in Donetsk Oblast said last week they were in control of the town known for its salt mines.
Ukraine has never officially recognized that the town was captured by Russian forces. On Sunday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army announced that Russian forces had shelled Ukrainian positions in the zone.
In his message, Pushilin says that there is damage in the mines in Soledar and it is difficult to go down into them.
Soledar, along with the city of Bakhmut to the southeast, have been at the center of intense fighting for months. Last week, Russian-linked military groups said they had also captured the small village of Klishcheevka near Bakhmut.
The so-called Donetsk People's Republic is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia in September illegally declared annexed after a referendum that Ukraine and its allies described as "rigged" and "conducted under pressure."
Charles Michel: EU to explore the use of confiscated Russian assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine
European Council President Charles Michel has urged EU member states to push ahead with talks on using 0 billion in seized Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine as the scale of destruction in the war-torn country mounts, the Financial Times reports.
Charles Michel said he wanted to explore the idea of actively managing the Russian central bank's frozen assets to generate profits that could then be earmarked for Ukraine's reconstruction efforts.
"This is a matter of fairness and honesty. This has to be done in accordance with legal principles - that is very clear," Michel said in an interview with the Financial Times.
Michel also said he expected EU leaders to "give some impetus" to the discussions. He added that despite the legal hurdles to confiscating the assets, there was "a serious political interest in making progress on the matter and getting a result".
The EU and its allies froze hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign reserves in foreign accounts of the Russian central bank at the start of the military invasion of Ukraine, which began at the end of February last year. Moscow later said those sanctions had frozen about 0 billion of the central bank's foreign reserves.
Subsequently, officials from across the EU and its institutions, including top European diplomat Josep Borrell, raised the idea of seizing these assets for use in rebuilding Ukraine's destroyed infrastructure, a financial publication recalls.
Ukraine's reconstruction and recovery costs were estimated last September at just under 350 billion euros by Kyiv, Brussels and the World Bank. The amount needed is likely to continue to rise as weekly Russian missile and drone strikes damage critical civilian infrastructure such as power plants and homes.
"Every day, more and more of Ukraine's infrastructure is being destroyed. We will be the first to rebuild Ukraine, and the cost of rebuilding it is increasing and growing every day," Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU Environment Commissioner, told the Financial Times on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.
"These speculations that we won't be able to use, for example, frozen Russian assets, really scare me, because I think that Russia should bear full responsibility. The country that should finance the reconstruction of Ukraine is Russia," he added at the time.
Late last year, the European Commission proposed the idea of transferring the Russian state's frozen assets to a fund where they could be actively managed to generate profits to help rebuild Ukraine.
Under the plan, Brussels has assumed that the main assets will not be fully confiscated, but will be returned to the Russian state if a peace agreement is signed.
Michel's call comes despite deep skepticism among some member states about the compatibility of asset confiscation with the rule of law and warnings that any action would need to be carefully coordinated among allies.
Some European officials say this could set a risky precedent, fueling risks to financial stability by raising questions about the safe-haven status of foreign reserves. New legislation may also be required in jurisdictions involved in asset freezes - including the US, the Financial Times notes.
"Of course, it has to be legal. This is the only way to get approval from the member states and also from the international community," European Commissioner Sinkevičius pointed out last week.
"I don't think it should be done only within the EU, and at least the rest of the G-7 countries should join us in this proposal," he added.
Talks about state assets run parallel to attempts in the EC to facilitate the seizure of the assets of Russian oligarchs who are under sanctions. It is important to ensure that sanctions evasion is a crime across the EU, making it easier to confiscate the underlying assets, the financial publication noted.
Russia to increase gas exports to China in 2023
Russian energy giant Gazprom will increase gas exports to China in the coming years through its Power of Siberia pipeline, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.
Experts interviewed by the agency estimated that the volume of natural gas exports from Russia to China could grow by more than 40% to 23 billion cubic meters in 2023.
At the same time, they claim that Moscow will focus on the development of the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, the transport capacity of which could reach 50 billion cubic meters per year.
The estimates come after Russian gas supplies to Europe fell significantly last year following the start of the war in Ukraine. The Nord Stream pipeline was suspended, while exports through the Yamal-Europe pipeline through Central Europe almost tripled, according to Ria Novosti calculations.
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