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Ukraine updates: Poland could send tanks without approval

January 23, 2023

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said Warsaw would ask for permission from Berlin to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but could do so without getting the green light. Follow DW for more.

German Bundeswehr soldiers standing in front of Leopard 2 tank
Poland has said it could supply Kyiv with German-made Leopard 2 tanks without Berlin's approvalImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture-alliance

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said Warsaw could send Kyiv Leopard 2 tanks without Germany's permission.

"We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance," Morawiecki said. "Even if we did not get this approval, we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine."

 "Even if Germany is not in this coalition, we will hand over our tanks, together with the others, to Ukraine."

Morawiecki said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's statement on Sunday that Berlin would not obstruct Polish efforts to send German-made tanks to Ukraine represented a "spark of hope" that Germany might join the coalition of countries ready to send Ukraine tanks.

"We are constantly exerting pressure on the government in Berlin to make its Leopards available," the Polish premier said. He added that Germany has "more than 350 active Leopards and about 200 in storage."

Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Monday, January 23:

German MP says battle tank decision needs more time

Speaking to DW on Monday, German Bundestag member Ralf Stegner said Germany's hesitation on sending battle tanks to Ukraine is not based on an an "implicit" refusal to do so, and emphasized that the government is taking its time in order for details to be agreed upon in coordination with Germany's allies.

"It's not Germany on the brakes, but it's different countries with different opinions," said Stegner, who is a member of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

"If you compare the government of Poland, for instance, or what the government of France says, there are different sides to that," he said, adding that providing fighting tanks is a "very difficult decision."

"We want to make those decisions with our allies together, not as a lone decision from Germany," he added.

Stegner also chimed in on the public statements made by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Sunday, in which she said Germany would not stand in the way of Poland if it wished to send its German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

He explained that although it is not "surprising" that Germany would not want to stand in the way of other countries providing tanks, "it's just not usual to communicate" this kind of issue without following procedure. 

"I don't know why the foreign minister said something public," he said. 

The lawmaker said these kind of decisions are made in a "confidential meeting of a relevant special committee, after which results would be made public."

EU foreign ministers agree to €500-million aid package

EU foreign ministers have agreed to another €500 million ($545 million) tranche of military aid for Ukraine.

The amount earmarked for Ukraine's military from EU coffers has risen to €3.6 billion. This amount is separate from national spending by individual member states. 

In total, European countries have pledged over €11 billion on weapons for Ukraine. 

Ministers are also expected to discuss using Russian assets frozen under sanctions to help finance reconstruction in Ukraine. This includes €300 billion worth of Russian central bank reserves.

British business daily Financial Times reported on Monday that European Council President Charles Michel urged the bloc to push forward with talks on the measure.

Michel wants to explore the idea of managing the Russian central bank's frozen assets to generate profits, which would then be earmarked for reconstruction efforts, the Financial Times reported him as saying.

Kyiv says it needs 'several hundred' tanks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff has said Ukraine needs "several hundred" tanks to push back Russian forces amid Berlin's hesitancy over Leopard 2 deliveries.

"We need tanks — not 10-20, but several hundred," Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram. "Our goal is [restoring] the borders of 1991 and punishing the enemy, who will pay for their crimes."

Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia took over the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and claimed to have annexed parts of the southern and eastern Ukraine in September 2022.

Berlin to follow 'well-established procedures' for tank requests — spokesman

German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said Berlin will follow "well-established procedures" in considering requests to supply Kyiv with tanks.

"I would perhaps like to put it this way: If such a request were to be made in Germany, which is not the case at the moment, then there are well-established procedures for answering such a request. And we all abide by them," he said.

"We have passionate debates and these passions occasionally lead to exaggerations on all sides," he said, referring to the debate around tank deliveries.

Former Wagner commander in Norway not facing deportation — lawyer

Andrei Medvedev, a former commander of the Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway, is in no risk of being deported, according to his lawyer.

"The risk of him being deported? It is zero," Medvedev's Norwegian lawyer Brynjulf Risnes told the Reuters news agency.

Risnes said that Medvedev had been detained as there was "disagreement" between Medvedev and police on measures taken to ensure his safety.

Earlier on Monday, the Gulagu.net rights group said that Medvedev was detained and handcuffed on Sunday evening and told he would be deported. 

The former commander said he feared for his life after witnessing the killing of Russian deserters who had been brought to Ukraine by the Wagner Group. He claimed his four-month contract had been repeatedly extended without his consent.

"We do not whitewash Medvedev. He has done many bad things in his life," Gulagu.net said. "But he has seen the light, he has realized this, he is ready and willing to cooperate with the world, with the international investigation and with the authorities of Norway, he wants to live and testify [against Wagner]."

Russia, Estonia downgrade diplomatic ties over Ukraine tensions

Moscow has said it is downgrading diplomatic relations with Estonia and ordered its ambassador to leave, with Tallinn responding in kind.

Estonia has argued strongly in favor of Germany providing Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv.

The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had told Estonia's envoy he must leave next month. Both countries will be represented in each other's capitals by an interim charge d'affaires rather than an ambassador, the ministry said.

Estonian Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu said that Tallinn told the Russian ambassador to leave by February 7.

"We will continue to support Ukraine as Russia is planning large-scale attacks, and we call on other like-minded countries to increase their assistance to Ukraine," Reinsalu said.

"In recent years, the Estonian leadership has purposefully destroyed the entire range of relations with Russia," said a statement from Russia's Foreign Ministry. "Total Russophobia, the cultivation of hostility toward our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: "The Estonian regime has gotten what it deserved" in having ties downgraded.

Russian intelligence accuses Kyiv of storing arms at nuclear power stations

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service SVR has accused Ukraine of storing Western-supplied arms at nuclear power stations.

The Reuters news agency said it could not verify the claims.

"The Ukrainian armed forces are storing weapons and ammunition provided by the West on the territory of nuclear power plants," the SVR said in a statement.

Ukraine: Kiev is dangerous after dark

Russia: No date set for START talks with US

Moscow has said no date has been set for talks with the United States on the New START treaty, which aims to limit the number of nuclear warheads in the two countries.

"The situation does not, frankly speaking, allow for setting a new date, taking into account this escalation trend in both rhetoric and actions by the United States," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov was cited by the state Interfax news agency as saying.

In November, Russia said it had "no other choice" but to cancel talks with the US over inspections under the New START treaty. The accord is set to expire in February 2026.

Zelenskyy pledges action following corruption scandal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has promised "powerful steps" to be taken to counter alleged corruption in Kyiv.

"Society will receive full information, and the state will take the necessary powerful steps," the Ukrainian head of state said.

"I don't want to announce [the steps] now, but it will all be fair," he said. "I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past."

Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vasyl Losynskii was detained earlier this week by Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau. He is accused of taking a bribe for the purchase of power generators. Zelenskyy said Losynskii has since been released.

Ukraine's president also addressed media reports that civil servants have enriched themselves while soldiers have been sold overpriced food.

Zelenskyy, who heads the Servant of the People party, was elected in 2019 on an anti-corruption platform.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

DW takes a look into how Russian state media portrays Germany and its leadership.

A number of German politicians have criticized Berlin's hesitancy to supply Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks.

sdi/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)