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Ukraine war live updates: Germany promises a decision on tanks; Russian official warns Ukraine allies risk own destruction

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German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday that he expected a decision soon on the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, meanwhile, said Berlin would not block Poland from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine.

The comments on Sunday suggest a change in Berlin’s position regarding the tanks after months of pressure to either offer Ukraine some of its own Leopard 2s or at least allow other allies with their own German-made tanks to export them to the war-torn country.

Last Friday, defense chiefs from Ukraine’s allied nations met in Germany to discuss the issue but no decision was reached.

In other news, a high-profile Russian official has said countries that offer offensive weapons to Ukraine risk their own destruction, saying it could lead to a “global catastrophe.”

“If Washington and NATO supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons,” State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attend an annual meeting of the Defense Ministry Board in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 21, 2022.

Mikhail Kuravlev | Sputnik | Reuters

General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the general staff and newly appointed commander in Ukraine, has likely started his tour with a drive to improve deployed troops’ day-to-day discipline, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence.

“Since he took command, officers have been attempting to clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts,” the ministry noted in an intelligence update on Twitter Monday.

It noted that the measures have been met with skepticism, and “some of the greatest derision has been reserved for attempts to improve the standard of troops’ shaving.”

“Officials in the Donetsk People’s Republic, described the prioritisation a ‘farce’ that would ‘hamper the process of destroying the enemy’,” the U.K. said. Meanwhile, Yevgteny Prigozhin, the owner of the private military company the Wagner Group, said that “war is the time of the active and courageous, and not of the clean-shaven.”

The U.K. noted that while Russian forces continue to endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties on the battlefield, Gerasimov’s prioritization of largely minor regulations “is likely to confirm the fears of his many sceptics in Russia.”

“Along with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, he is increasingly seen as out of touch and focused on presentation over substance.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Bundeswehr Leopard 2 A6 heavy tanks.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday that he expected a decision soon on the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Pistorius told Germany’s ARD broadcaster that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including consequences at home for the security of the German population, Reuters reported.

Separately, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not block Poland from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine.

There is intense pressure on Berlin to allow other countries with Leopard 2s to give them to Ukraine, but it has so far refused to authorize the onward exporting of the tanks, or to offer its own. Last Friday, Ukraine’s allies met in Germany to discuss the issue but no decision was reached.

Kyiv has pleaded with its allies to send heavy battle tanks for months, saying they could be decisive in the outcome of the war. The U.K. is Ukraine’s only ally to have pledged to send a number of its own Challenger 2 tanks. France said it has not ruled out sending its own Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin (R).

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

The speaker of Russia’s parliament on Sunday warned that countries supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons risked their own destruction. It followed new pledges of armored vehicles, air defense systems, and other equipment from Ukraine’s allies, but not the battle tanks Kyiv has requested.

“Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said. “If Washington and NATO supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

Ukraine’s supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine on Friday, though the new commitments were overshadowed by defense leaders failing at an international meeting in Ramstein, Germany, to agree on Ukraine’s urgent request for German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Read the whole story here.

— The Associated Press

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