Ukraine live briefing: U.S. to send Abrams tanks; Germany also agrees to supply Leopard 2 vehicles, reports say

In this March 2021 file photo, a U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tank fires during NATO exercises in Adazi, Latvia. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

The United States plans to supply Kyiv with roughly 30 M1 Abrams tanks, U.S. officials said Tuesday, a move aimed at resolving a dispute with Germany over which nation would send battle tanks to Ukraine.

German media reported Tuesday that Berlin will send at least one company of its own Leopard 2 tanks and also allow other European nations to deliver theirs. A senior European official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, confirmed the reports and said the government plans to announce the decision Wednesday.

Germany had previously said that a U.S. decision to send Abramses would help ease the way for it to send its own Leopard 2s, but later denied that there was any “linkage.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

For Ukraine, what’s so special about Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks?

1. Key developments

  • Several senior Ukrainian officials resigned or were removed Tuesday as President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to make wide-ranging personnel changes amid a public outcry over corruption allegations involving government and law enforcement officials. Zelensky said Ukrainian officials would not be permitted to travel abroad for vacation or any reason other than work.
  • Two British men who went missing this month in eastern Ukraine were killed while attempting to evacuate civilians, according to a family statement. Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Parry were volunteers delivering humanitarian assistance to the front lines. The two men were last seen departing for the town of Soledar, the sight of heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces earlier this month. “It is with great sadness we have to announce that our beloved Chrissy has been killed along with his colleague Andrew Bagshaw whilst attempting a humanitarian evacuation from Soledar, eastern Ukraine,” the statement said.
  • The United States will order the Abrams tanks from manufacturers rather than transfer them from existing U.S. stocks, officials said Tuesday. That means they are unlikely to arrive by spring when Russian forces are expected to begin a new offensive. The tanks are “probably not for the near fight,” one U.S. official said, and are not likely to arrive for many months, if not years.

2. Battleground updates

  • Poland’s defense minister said Tuesday that he had sought official consent to send the German-made weapons to the Ukrainian front lines. The German government confirmed Tuesday that it had received the request and said applications for approval would be examined in accordance with procedure and with the necessary urgency. About 2,000 of the tanks are scattered across Europe, and the German government must sign off on transfers by any countries that use them.
  • Russia suggested that any agreement by Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks would adversely affect future relations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that “the relationship is already at a fairly low point,” between Berlin and Moscow. “Such supplies do not bode well for future relations,” he added. “They will certainly leave an imminent mark on the future of this relationship.”

3. Global impact

  • Finland’s foreign minister suggested his country might have to consider joining NATO without its ally Sweden. Relations have soured between Sweden and NATO member Turkey, including after protests in Stockholm that involved the burning of a copy of the Quran. The Nordic nations applied to join the alliance last year after the war broke out but need the backing of all existing members. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told broadcaster YLE that Finland must be “ready to reevaluate the situation,” but later stressed to reporters that the two allies were still “trying to progress this together.” Haavisto also told Reuters: “A timeout is needed before we return to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust has settled.”
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says the Kremlin is trying to break him in jail. Navalny, who was once poisoned with the banned nerve agent Novichok, is serving 11½ years in a Russian penal colony for fraud and violating parole, charges widely viewed as politically motivated. He says he is under an ultra-strict regime involving sleep deprivation, isolation, weight loss and harassment as he accuses the Kremlin of trying to silence him.
  • Only 18 percent of Ukrainians think their country has received a sufficient level of weapons support from partner countries, according to findings from a new survey conducted by public opinion firm Ipsos this month. Less than half of Ukrainians think their country has received sufficient economic aid from allies. Fifty-four percent of Ukrainians reported their personal income had dropped since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last February. A significant majority of Ukrainians reported feeling visits by international leaders to Ukraine, particularly eastern and southern regions that have seen heavy fighting, are meaningful gestures. Roughly two-thirds believe there is a sufficient level of support for Ukrainian refugees, according to the findings.

4. From our correspondents

For Ukraine, what’s so special about Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks? The Leopard battle tank was introduced in 1979 and has since been upgraded several times, gaining a reputation as one of the best battle tanks in the world. It is more advanced than many of the Soviet-era tanks fielded by both Russian and Ukrainian forces, The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor, William Neff and Daniel Wolfe write.

Other countries have offered different tanks: The United States will send its Bradley Fighting Vehicles but not its M1 Abrams tanks, while Britain has promised 14 Challenger 2 models this month. But the Leopard 2’s speed and ease of use — as well as the fact that there are many of them already in Europe — have made them more attractive to Kyiv. Even older versions of the tank have modern optics, including thermal imaging, that allow them to operate day and night.

Natalia Abbakumova, Vanessa Guinan-Bank, Shane Harris, John Hudson, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dan Lamothe and Amar Nadhir contributed to this report.

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