After weeks of pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Berlin on Wednesday approved the delivery of powerful German-made Leopard tanks to assist Ukraine in withstanding the Russian incursion.
Germany will provide 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the Bundeswehr, according to a statement by government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
It also authorizes other European nations to contribute tanks from their stockpiles to Ukraine to rapidly build "two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine," as he said.
While dozens of nations have offered to provide Ukraine with military equipment, Kyiv has been pleading for the more advanced Leopard tanks, which are considered essential for breaching enemy lines.
The plan agreed upon by Chancellor Olaf Scholz would also include tank training for Ukrainian forces in Germany, as well as logistics, ammunition, and tank repair.
Scholz, accused of dilly-dallying over whether or not to send tanks, will address questions in the Bundestag German parliament at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT).
Several other European nations, notably Finland and Poland, have expressed willingness to contribute their stocks.
In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington was considering supplying a considerable number of Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine.
If Western nations provide Ukraine with heavy tanks, they will be destroyed on the battlefield, the Kremlin threatened Wednesday.
Pullout from Soledar
"These tanks burn similarly to the others. They are pretty pricey, "Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
A Moscow-backed official reported that Russian soldiers had advanced in Bakhmut, a town in eastern Ukraine that Russia had been attempting to take for months.
Additionally, the Ukrainian military confirmed to AFP that its troops had withdrawn from battle-scarred Soledar, northeast of Bakhmut.
Earlier this month, Russian troops seized control of Soledar.
And Denis Pushilin, Moscow's highest-ranking officer in charge of Donetsk, stated that its conquest "has now made it possible to block the enemy's supply routes and, in part, take under operational control areas" from which Ukrainian forces attacked Russian positions.
Kyiv and some of its friends had been lobbying Germany for weeks to authorize the delivery of the Leopards amid the intense fighting in eastern Ukraine. Still, last week, a US-led summit of Kyiv's allies in Germany failed to produce a resolution.
On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the Germans of "dragging their feet, dithering and behaving in a manner that is difficult to understand."
However, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stated that he has "expressly encouraged partner countries that have Leopard tanks that are ready for deployment to train Ukrainian forces on these tanks."
Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the United States, responded to allegations that Washington may send battle tanks by stating that such a move would reveal "the real aggressor in the current conflict."
"If the United States decides to supply tanks, it will be impossible to justify such step using arguments about 'defensive weapons'," he warned, according to a Facebook post from the Russian Embassy.
This would be yet another egregious provocation towards the Russian Federation.
Countries utilizing German-made munitions must obtain Berlin's approval to transfer them to a third party, following Berlin's war weapons control regulations.
In further demonstrating international support for Ukraine, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that he is considering a visit to the country, per Zelensky's offer.
Kushida, whose nation is hosting this year's Group of Seven conferences, stated, "I will consider this in light of various circumstances and conditions,"
At home, Zelensky is confronting an expanding corruption crisis, with charges of food procurement fraud rocking his defence ministry.
Last week, local media reported that the ministry had signed a contract at costs "two to three times higher" than current rates for essential items.
Several officials, including a deputy minister of defence, two deputy ministers of development of communities and territories, and a deputy minister of social policy, have resigned in response to the claims.
The history of chronic corruption in Ukraine, notably among the political elite, has been masked by the ongoing conflict.