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Ukraine updates: Germany approves export of Leopard 1 tanks

February 3, 2023

The German government has approved deliveries of Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine. Meanwhile, IOC condemns Ukraine's Olympic boycott threat. DW has the latest.

Leopard 1 tanks
The Leopard 1 tanks entered service in 1965. In the Bundeswehr, the Leopard 1 was completely phased out in 2003 by the Leopard 2Image: Thomas Imo/photothek/picture alliance

The German government has granted an export license for delivery of older Leopard 1 main  battle tanks to Ukraine, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit confirmed in Berlin on Friday, without giving any further details.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung was the first to report the news in its Friday edition. Deliveries of the tanks from the industrial stocks could be made as soon as the tanks are repaired, the newspaper said.

However, according to the report, there are still problems in obtaining the required 105-millimeter ammunition. Although Brazil has large stocks of the ammunition, the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has so far refused to pass it on to Ukraine.

First entering service in the 1960s, the Leopard 1 is the forerunner of the more advanced Leopard 2, which is widely used by armies across Europe.

According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, the government decision concerned 29 Leopard 1s, which were in storage at a military manufacturer. 

The Süddeutsche Zeitung, meanwhile, reported that two manufacturers want to refurbish "dozens" of Leopard 1s to send them to Ukraine.

The German government had already decided to send 14 more modern Leopard 2 main battle tanks from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine.

Putin says Russia 'again' threatened by German tanks

Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Friday, February 3:

US announces new defense package worth nearly $2.2 billion

The US said it is sending $2.175 billion (€2.01 billion) worth of military aid to Ukraine.

The latest US-supplied defense package will include precision-guided as well as HAWK air defense firing units in addition to weapons and munitions.

Pat Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said the new package will include ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB) which can fly up to 150 kilometers (93 miles). The munitions are capable of hitting deep behind enemy lines.

Ryder said the bombs would enable the Ukrainians "to conduct operations in defense of their country and to take back their sovereign territory."

Ukraine has previously requested munitions capable of traveling farther than HIMARS rockets which have an 80-kilometer range.

Ukraine hopes to start EU talks this year

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he hopes formal EU accession talks can begin by the end of this year.

Speaking alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the European Council President Charles Michel, Zelenskyy said, "The goal is to start negotiations this year and this is not just a purpose but a major overwhelming goal."

In response, Michel said, "Ukraine and the EU, we are family. The future of Ukraine is within the European Union."

"Ukraine is the EU, the EU is Ukraine," Michel said.

Michel, however, did not offer a timeline for when accession talks could start. Normally the process is lengthy, requiring legal reforms and adherence to EU standards and rules.

A joint statement published later noted only Ukraine's desire to start talks "as soon as possible."

New EU package to target Russian military trade and tech sectors

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said the EU's next sanctions package will target Russia's military trade and technology sectors.

Speaking in Kyiv, Von der Leyen said, "Our 9 packages of sanctions are biting, and a 10th one is on its way. With our partners, we must deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices."

"New measures will hit the trade and technology that supports Russia’s war machine," von der Leyen.

Western sanctions push Russia's energy revenues to lowest level since 2020

Russia's monthly budget revenues from oil and gas fell in January to their lowest level since August 2020 under the impact of Western sanctions on Russian exports, Russian Finance Ministry said.

Monthly tax and customs revenue from energy sales was down 46% in the space of a year. While the price of the global benchmark Brent blend was little changed, the average monthly price of Russia's Urals blend was down 42%, according to the ministry.

The data also showed budget income from energy had dropped 54% from December's earnings of 931.5 billion roubles ($13.2 billion, €12.1 billion), though these were inflated by a one-off tax payment by monopoly gas exporter Gazprom. January's figure stood at 425.5 billion roubles ($6.05 billion).

The finance ministry also said it would almost treble its daily sales of foreign currency to 8.9 billion roubles ($130 million) a day over the next month to compensate for the fall in oil and gas revenues.

NATO urges Russia to comply with treaty limiting nuclear weapons

NATO has called on Russia to comply with a treaty to limit nuclear arsenals. The so-called New START Treaty signed by the United States and Russia limits the number of nuclear weapons the two countries are allowed to have and foresees bilateral inspections and data exchanges.

Moscow's refusal to allow US inspection on its territory undermines the viability of the treaty, according to the statement issued by NATO members and Finland and Sweden. "NATO allies continue to view effective arms control as an essential contribution to our security objectives," it read.

The statement also notes that Washington complies with the legally binding agreement, which is the only remaining major arms control measure between the US and Russia. It limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries to 800 carrier systems and 1,550 operational warheads each.

EU provides Ukraine with 35 million LED bulbs

The European Union sent 35 million energy-saving LED lamps to Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter from the sidelines of a summit meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Ukrainians could exchange their old bulbs for LED bulbs "at the post office," according to von der Leyen. "Every kilowatt of energy saved is precious to counter Russia's energy war," she added.

The EU had previously supplied the Ukrainian government with generators to protect against power outages caused by Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Russia to attend OSCE meeting on anniversary of Ukraine invasion

Russia plans to attend the assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna exactly one year after it launched its invasion of Ukraine.

"We are now dealing with obtaining the visa and preparing for the trip. I think everything will be normal," the deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, Vladimir Dzhabarov, said.

The Russian delegation had to be prepared for serious verbal attacks during the debate, Dzhabarov said: "We understand that all 30 NATO countries, which are also members of the OSCE, will speak out against our country."

He also added that Austria had given assurances that it would grant visas to all Russian deputies.

Russia last participated in an OSCE meeting in 2021. At the last two gatherings, host countries Britain and Poland denied visas to the Russian delegation. Many Russian delegates are now on Western sanctions lists.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry, however, has defended issuing entry permits to the Russians for the February 23-24 meeting as an obligation under international law.

Wagner's head Prigozhin indicted by Ukrainian prosecutors

The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine brought war crimes charges against Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian Wagner mercenary group.

"The head of the Wagner private military company has been charged with encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine and waging a war of aggression," the Prosecutor General's Office wrote on Telegram.

According to the Ukrainian prosecutors, Prigozhin is directly responsible for thousands of war crimes. He openly admits his role in the war against Ukraine and, with the permission of the Kremlin, recruits tens of thousands of prisoners.

The General Prosecutor's Office also warned that Wagner's rank-and-file mercenaries, even those who fled abroad, would not escape responsibility for any crimes they committed.

"Prosecutors have already interrogated two such fighters who are in the EU. An investigation into the involvement in war crimes of another Wagner member, who is in Norway, is also underway," it said.

Russian-installed Crimea authorities nationalize properties of Ukrainian politicians

Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said they had nationalized around 500 properties in the peninsula, including some belonging to senior Ukrainian politicians and business figures.

In a statement on Telegram, Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament, said the decree targeted "accomplices of the Kyiv regime" and that the nationalized properties included banks and tourist and sport infrastructure.

According to a document published on a Crimean government website, properties belonging to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and businessmen Igor Kolomoisky, Rinat Akhmetov and Serhiy Taruta were among those confiscated.

Crimea, which is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, has been controlled by Moscow since 2014, when Russia unilaterally annexed the peninsula.

Michel arrives in Kyiv, vows support for Ukraine

European Council President Charles Michel arrived in Kyiv to join an EU-Ukraine summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and vowed support for Ukraine's bid to join the bloc.

"Back in Kyiv for the EU-Ukraine summit with Zelensky (European Commission chief) Ursula von der Leyen and (EU senior diplomat) Josep Borrell. There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU," Michel said on Twitter.

Von der Leyen and Borrell arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday and held talks with Ukrainian officials there.

Ukraine's allies push IMF to approve multibillion loan

Ukraine's allies are pushing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finalize plans for a multibillion-dollar lending program, the Financial Times reported.

IMF representatives are planning to meet Ukrainian officials in mid-February to advance discussions over a loan that could range from $14 billion (€12.9 billion) to $16 billion, the report said, citing officials familiar with the talks.

New EU package to target Russian military trade and tech sectors

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said the EU's next sanctions package will target Russia's military trade and technology sectors.

Speaking in Kyiv, Von der Leyen said, "Our 9 packages of sanctions are biting, and a 10th one is on its way. With our partners, we must deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices."

"New measures will hit the trade and technology that supports Russia’s war machine," von der Leyen.

IOC condemns Ukraine's Olympic boycott threat

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned Ukraine's threat to boycott the Paris 2024 Summer Games. According to the IOC, the threat violates the fundamentals of the Olympic Movement.

"It is extremely unfortunate to escalate this discussion at this early stage with a boycott threat," the IOC said. The participation of individual neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has not yet been discussed and decided, it added.

Calls for IOC to ban Russia from Olympics

The Baltic nations and Poland on Thursday called on international sports bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Olympics and other events while the war in Ukraine continues.

Poland believes it will be possible to build a coalition of some 40 countries, including the US, Britain and Canada, supporting the call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics, a Polish minister said.

Baltic countries urge the IOC to ban Russian athletes from Paris Games

The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bar Russian athletes from the Olympic games in Paris next year.

Kaja Kallas, Estonia's Prime Minister, said that her country's athletes could be placed in a situation where they compete against Russians.

"I think that our efforts should be on convincing our other friends and allies that the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is just wrong," Kallas said.

She added, "So boycotting is the next step. I think people will understand why this is necessary."

Krisjanis Karins, the Latvian Prime Minister, said it was "morally reprehensible" to permit Russians to compete in the Olympics. Earlier in the week, the Latvian Olympic Committee had threatened a boycott

Lithuania's Prime Minister Gitanas Nauseda said he supported the International Paralympic Committee's decision to bar Russian athletes from competition.

All three Baltic states were occupied for nearly half a century by the Soviet Union before declaring independence in 1991.

The IOC has been pushing international sports federations to permit Russians and Belarusians who have not been "actively supporting the war in Ukraine" to compete under a neutral flag rather than their own.

Number of recruits from Russian prisons decreases — UK intelligence update

The recruitment of prisoners by the Russian mercenary Wagner group has recently decreased, UK Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

A power struggle between different groups in the Russian ruling elite is at least partly responsible for the decline.

"Significant tensions between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense are playing out in public; competition between factions in the Russian elite is likely to be partially responsible for the reduced supply of convicts," the update said.

Both data from the Russian law enforcement agency and reports from Ukrainian soldiers suggest that the number of Wagner mercenaries recruited in the prisons has fallen, the British ministry added.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

Kyiv is hosting a key summit with the European Union as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wants to start talks on his war-torn country's accession "this year."

ar, dh/jcg, sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters) 

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