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Ukraine expects decisions on tanks at Western defence leaders' meeting

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Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy (pictured) said that his government is expecting "strong decisions" from NATO's defence leaders and other countries who met to discuss ways to improve Ukraine's ability against Russian forces equipped with modern battle tanks.

This meeting, held at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is the latest in a series of meetings since Russia invaded Ukraine almost 11 months ago. Future weapons supplies will also be discussed, especially regarding Germany's Leopard2 tanks that are used by armies throughout Europe.

Berlin can veto any decision to export tanks, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government has been reluctant to authorize it out of fear of Russia.

Allies claim Berlin's concerns are misplaced. Russia is already fully committed to war. Moscow, however, has repeatedly stated that Western weapons transfers would prolong conflict and increase suffering in Ukraine.

Both Russia and Ukraine have relied heavily on Soviet-era T-72 tank tanks. These tanks were destroyed in their hundreds during the war Russian President Vladimir Putin began last February 24, calling it a "specially military operation" to protect Russia's speakers and Russians.

Russia and its allies accuse Ukraine of an unprovoked invasion to seize territory and to destroy the independence of a former Soviet republic and neighbor. Ukraine has had a steady supply from the West of weapons.

Zelenskiy stated that "we are actually now waiting for a determination from one European capital which will activate the prepared chain of cooperation regarding tanks," in a video address Thursday night.

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"We are getting ready for tomorrow's Ramstein meeting. We expect strong decisions. He said that we expect a strong military aid package from America."

US MILITARY ASSISTANCE

The United States announced Thursday that it would provide $2.5 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, which includes hundreds more armoured vehicles as well as support for Ukraine's air defense.

According to a statement by the U.S. Defense Department, the aid included 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles as well as 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers. Since the invasion, more than $27.4 million in security assistance has been provided by the United States to Ukraine.

According to sources within the German government, Berlin would consider moving on the Leopard tanks issue if Washington offered to send Abrams tanks into Ukraine. The United States did not include Abrams tanks in its Thursday announcement.

Boris Pistorius, Germany's new Defence Minister, stated earlier that he didn't know of any requirement for Ukraine to receive U.S. tanks simultaneously.

Pistorius said: "I don't know of any such stipulation," when asked if this meant that Abrams and Leopards would have to be delivered simultaneously. This position leaves the possibility of an agreement being reached on Friday.

CIA DIRECTOR VISIT

Allies of Ukraine in the West wanted to prevent NATO from appearing to face Russia directly, and so they refused to send their most powerful weaponry to the Kyiv government.

Zelenskiy, a Zelenskiy interviewer, said that Ukraine needed tanks to defend itself and recapture occupied territory. He also stated that Russia did not intend to attack Ukraine.

"From Washington to London to Paris to Warsaw, there is one thing that everyone agrees on: Ukraine needs tanks. The key to ending war properly is tanks. It's time to stop trembling under Putin and take the final steps," tweeted Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelenskiy adviser.

Reuters was told on Thursday that CIA Director William Burns traveled in secret to Ukraine's capital Kyiv, to meet Zelenskiy.

The official refused to give a date. The Washington Post first reported that the visit took place at the beginning of last week. According to the Post, Burns gave Zelenskiy an overview of his expectations regarding Russia's military plans.

According to Ukrainian military officials, fighting continued in the Donbas strategic industrial region on Ukraine's eastern border.

According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian forces attacked Bakhmut, Russia’s main target in Donetsk, which together with Luhansk form the Donbas. Bakhmut is 20km (12 miles) away from Soledar. Russian forces claim they have control of Soledar while Ukrainian sources state that their military remains fighting in Soledar.

Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, said: "Ukrainian troops have practically stabilized the front around Bakhmut."

Russia is making Soledar a military center, as of today. They are also trying to move troops towards Spirne or Bilohorivka, which is just outside the Luhansk region.

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