Ukrainian servicemen carried the coffins, covered with the national flag, at the ceremony in Kyiv
Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine on Saturday blasted the “global indecision” of its allies after Germany stalled on supplying its vaunted Leopard tanks to bolster Kyiv’s fighting capacity in the nearly year-long war with Russia.
On Friday, some 50 nations agreed to provide Kyiv with billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware, including armoured vehicles and munitions needed to push back Russian forces.
But German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said that despite heightened expectations, “We still cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be, when it comes to the Leopard tank.”
“Today’s indecision is killing more of our people,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
“Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster,” he said.
In a joint statement Saturday, the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states urged Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now.
“This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly,” said a message tweeted by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics and his Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts.
“Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard,” they added.
In Berlin, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Federal Chancellery building calling for Germany to send tanks to Ukraine.
- Growing pressure -
Berlin has been hesitant to send the Leopards or allow other nations to transfer them to Kyiv.
Reports earlier in the week indicated Germany would agree to do so only if the US provided its tanks as well. Washington has said providing its Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not feasible, citing difficulties in training and maintenance.
But expectations had grown ahead of Friday’s Ukraine Contact Group meeting of around 50 US-led countries that Germany would at least agree to let other countries operating Leopards transfer them to Kyiv’s army.
Factfile on the German-made battle tank, Leopard 2A4
The pleas came as the Russian army said its troops had launched an offensive in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of an almost frozen front.
In its daily report Saturday, Moscow’s forces said they had carried out “offensive operations” in the region and claimed to have “taken more advantageous lines and positions”.
Russia also said it had held a training exercise on repelling air attacks in the Moscow region, using an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
Ukraine’s defence ministry reported 26 air strikes and 15 attacks from multiple-launch rocket systems Saturday.
“The enemy does not abandon its aggressive plans, focusing its main efforts on attempts to fully occupy the Donetsk region,” on Ukraine’s border with Russia, it said.
- Funeral -
In Kyiv, Zelensky attended the funeral of his interior minister and other officials killed in a helicopter crash outside the capital Wednesday.
The seven coffins were hoisted into the echoing hall in central Kyiv by military pallbearers in full ceremonial dress, to the sound of a lone trumpet and a snare drum.
Denys Monastyrsky, one of Zelensky’s top aides, is the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die in the war that Russia launched on February 24, 2022.
Zelensky attended the funeral of his interior minister and other officials killed in a helicopter crash
Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska wore all black and carried floral tributes.
“Ukraine is losing its best sons and daughters every day,” Zelensky said in a statement.
“It hurts to think about it, it hurts to talk about it now,” he added in his evening address.
The cause of the crash that killed him and 13 others when the chopper fell near a kindergarten is still being investigated.
US officials said Ukraine still faced an uphill battle against Russian forces who occupy one-fifth of the country 11 months after invading.
But they spoke of a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the coming weeks to retake parts of its territory.
But the Kremlin warned Friday that Western tanks would make little difference on the battlefield.
- Media wars -
“One should not exaggerate the importance of such supplies in terms of the ability to change something,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
On the media front, Russian news agencies quoted foreign ministry sources saying Moscow would retaliate against French media in Russia after the bank accounts of RT France, the French arm of its state broadcaster, were frozen.
Hours later, the director of RT France announced that it would be shutting down in France following the assets freeze.