Western defence ministers gather at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to hammer out future military aid to Ukraine amid ongoing dissent over who will provide the battle tanks that Ukrainian leaders say they desperately need to recapture territory from Russia. European Council president Charles Michel said tanks “must be delivered” to Ukraine after he visited the war-torn country on Thursday for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Follow our live blog for the latest updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).
6:30am: Will Germany budge on Leopard tanks?
Today’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany is the latest in a series since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, and where future weapons supplies will be discussed, particularly of Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks used by armies across Europe.
Berlin has veto power over any decision to export the tanks and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has appeared reluctant so far to authorise that for fear of provoking Russia. Some allies say Berlin’s concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war.
Read more: UK offers tanks in Ukraine’s hour of need, but will Germany follow suit?
German government sources have said Berlin would move on the Leopard tanks issue if Washington agreed to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine. But Germany’s new Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said he did not know of any requirement that Ukraine receive US and German tanks simultaneously.
“I’m not aware of any such stipulation,” Pistorius told German ARD television when asked if that meant Abrams and Leopards had to be delivered at the same time, a position that leaves open the possibility of an agreement on Friday.
3:20am: US announces $2.5 billion in new military aid for Ukraine
The United States has announced new military assistance for Ukraine valued at up to $2.5 billion, including hundreds of armoured vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defence.
The aid includes 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, the US Defense Department said in a statement. In total, the United States has committed more than $27.4 billion in security aid to Ukraine since the invasion began.
Earlier, Britain announced it would send 600 Brimstone missiles, Denmark said it would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzers, and Sweden promised its Archer artillery system, a modern mobile howitzer requested by Kyiv for months.
10:14pm: Zelensky expects ‘strong decisions’ on arms supplies
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Thursday that he expected “strong decisions” on further Western arms supplies at a key meeting of allies at the US Ramstein airbase in Germany on Friday.
“As we prepare for tomorrow’s Ramstein, we expect strong decisions. We expect a powerful military support package from the United States,” Zelensky said in a video address.
“We are, in fact, now waiting for a decision from one European capital, which will activate the prepared chains of cooperation regarding tanks,” he said, referring to German hesitations on delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)