Ukraine to get more armoured vehicles but presses for tanks to fight Russia

  • The US predicts months of heavy fighting in Bakhmut in the east
  • Russia uses a frigate with hypersonic cruise missiles
  • This story includes content produced in Russia where the law restricts the deployment of Russian military activities in Ukraine

KYIV, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Western allies have moved to supply Ukraine with military vehicles for the first time but not the heavy tanks it has requested to fight Russia, while Washington predicts intense fighting will continue for months on the eastern front.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that his government will send AMX-10 RC minivans to help in the war, a French official said Wednesday after a phone call between them.

“This is the first time that Western armored vehicles have been delivered to support the Ukrainian army,” the official said.

Hours later, US President Joe Biden said Washington was considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine, which since Russia invaded in February has been fighting Europe’s biggest civil war since 1945. Cities were destroyed, millions of people were displaced and tens of thousands were killed.

The Bradley armored vehicle, equipped with a powerful gun, has been a standard US military vehicle to transport troops to war zones since the mid-1980s. The US military has thousands of Bradleys, and they will give Ukraine more firepower on the battlefield and strengthen its ability in the war.

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Biden’s move, however, would fail to send the Abrams tanks he wanted to Ukraine. Kyiv has repeatedly asked Western rivals for heavy vehicles such as Abrams and German-made Leopard tanks.

In an evening video speech, Zelenskiy thanked Macron for the announcement and said it showed the need for other allies to provide heavy weapons.

“This is something that sends a clear signal to all our partners. There is no logical reason why Ukraine has not been supplied with Western tanks,” he said.

THE FIGHT IN THE EAST

A senior US administration official on Wednesday offered a harsh assessment of the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, particularly in the devastated, Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut. Heavy fighting is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, although Russian forces have made incremental progress, the official said.

“The battle is still very hot … I think what we are seeing in Bakhmut we should expect to see elsewhere that there will be more fighting in the coming months.”

In his video speech, Zelenskiy said that Ukrainian troops outside Bakhmut had misled the Russian people and that Moscow was building up its forces in the region.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.

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RUSSIA SENDS A FRIGATE

Zelenskiy last month told the US Congress that tens of billions of dollars in US aid to help fight Russian aggression were not donations, but investments in global security.

The United States is preparing another arms aid package that could be announced in the coming days on top of the estimated $21.3 billion in security aid to Ukraine so far.

The United States has increased the strength of its weapons including the Stinger anti-aircraft shoulder-launched missiles as well as the Javelin anti-tank missiles, the HIMARS rocket system and the NASAMS surface-to-air missiles.

During Zelenskiy’s visit to Washington, the United States pledged to send the Patriot missile system to repel Russian missile and drone attacks.

The head of the intelligence unit of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Andriy Cherniak, commenting on the media RBC-Ukraine that Kyiv expects that Kyiv will not compromise on Russian attacks this year even though people have been severely attacked.

“According to Ukrainian military intelligence estimates, in the next four to five months the Russian army may lose up to 70,000 people. And the country’s (Russia) leadership is ready for such losses,” said Cherniak.

Russian leaders “understand that they will lose but they do not plan to end the war”, he said.

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In a sign to the West that Russia will not back down over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate on Wednesday into the Atlantic Ocean armed with new-generation hypersonic cruise missiles, which can travel at five times the speed of sound.

Ukraine said Russia launched seven missiles, 18 airstrikes and more than 85 attacks from multiple rockets in the past 24 hours against civilian infrastructure in the cities of Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Russia denies that it deliberately attacks civilians.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that Russia will continue to build additional attack centers and focus on the capture of Bakhmut and other cities north of Donetsk.

Malyar, citing the ministry’s chief intelligence officer, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Russia’s heavy losses mean Moscow is likely to announce a second partial meeting in the first half of the year.

Russia launched what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, citing threats to its security and the need to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Russia of an ill-fated territorial war.

Reported by Reuters bureaux; Written by Cynthia Osterman; Edited by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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