Scholz said later that Germany would send further military aid to Kyiv beyond the Leopards delivery, including for example air defence, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed Washington’s decision on Abrams tanks and thanked Scholz for the Leopards. He tweeted: “Today the free world is united as never before for a common goal”, which he described as the liberation of Ukraine.
The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, hailed the tank announcements as a “historic day” that would help “determine our future victory”.
“The main thing is that this is only the beginning. We need hundreds of tanks,” he said in a post on Telegram.
The German and US moves definitively scrapped one of the last taboos in Western support for Ukraine: providing arms that have a mainly offensive rather than defensive purpose. The West has been reluctant to send heavy offensive weapons for fear of provoking nuclear power Russia.
Russia reacted with fury to Germany’s decision, saying Berlin was abandoning its “historical responsibility to Russia” arising from Nazi crimes in World War II when Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union.
“This extremely dangerous decision takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation,” said Sergei Nechayev, Moscow’s ambassador to Germany.
Pledges to Ukraine from other countries that field Leopards, which Germany made in the thousands and exported to allies in NATO, multiplied this week as big powers the United States and Germany appeared to patch up differences over their approach.
Finland and Norway announced they would send Leopards, as did Poland, which has already sought Berlin’s approval.
Spain and the Netherlands said they were considering it. Britain has offered a company of 14 of its comparable Challenger tanks and France is considering sending its Leclercs.
Moscow says supplies of modern offensive weaponry to Ukraine will only postpone what it says will be its inevitable victory. Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador in Washington, said deliveries of U.S. tanks would be “another blatant provocation”.
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