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Stung by criticism, Germany says it is open to sending Ukraine heavy weapons

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By Reuters
No taboos on weaponry for Ukraine, says German foreign minister
No taboos on weaponry for Ukraine, says German foreign minister   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Alexander Ratz and Thomas Escritt

TALLINN -Germany is examining what extra maintenance and ammunition its stock of ageing Marder armoured infantry fighting vehicles will need for Ukraine to use them, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

On the second day of a tour of Baltic states, Baerbock addressed criticism by allies and commentators of Germany’s apparent foot-dragging on delivering the weaponry Kyiv says it needs to fend off Russian attacks. [L5N2WJ3HG]

“There are no taboos for us with regard to armoured vehicles and other weaponry that Ukraine needs,” she told a news conference with her Estonian counterpart on Thursday.

Earlier, Bild newspaper had accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz of blocking tank deliveries.

Many analysts say Ukraine urgently needs heavy weapons to drive back a Russian invasion that has now concentrated on taking ground in the eastern Donbass region.

While Ukraine’s light armaments and tactics have had some success in slowing Russia’s advance, stoping and reversing that incursion will need heavy battlefield weaponry like tanks and howitzers, they say.

Russia calls its incursion a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for an illegal war of aggression.

But Baerbock said the priority was to ensure Ukraine quickly got older Soviet-designed kit that its military could use without extra training, and that it was doing this by backfilling the stocks of allied countries that had such weaponry to spare with modern German-made gear.

The German armed forces themselves faced equipment shortagers, she added, noting that German peacekeeping missions in Africa did not have all the helicopters they needed.

Pressed by journalists on whether Germany’s Leopard tank would be sent to Ukraine, she said troops would need training to use such advanced kit, and that Berlin would pay for that training.

“We are providing one billion euros because we should think not just for the coming days and months, but also the next years for the systems Ukraine needs for defence now, but also for a free Ukraine in the future,” she said.

“We know that every day counts.”