Ukraine receives its first Western heavy tanks

The first British and German heavy tanks have arrived in Ukraine, a contribution of forces long desired by kyiv to face the Russian invasion

Ukraine receives its first Western heavy tanks

The first British and German heavy tanks have arrived in Ukraine, a contribution of forces long desired by kyiv to face the Russian invasion.

These Challenger and Leopard battle tanks, promised in kyiv at the beginning of the year, arrive in time for the spring offensive planned by the Ukrainian forces.

At the same time, Russia confirmed its plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, its neighboring ally of Ukraine and the European Union, despite strong protests from the West.

In a post on Facebook on Monday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced that "British Challengers, American Strykers and Cougars and German Marders" have "added to the Ukrainian units".

He also posted a photo of these vehicles, without specifying the day they arrived.

A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian ministry, Iryna Zolotar, confirmed to AFP that the Challenger tanks "were already in Ukraine", without giving the exact number.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his part announced on Monday that Berlin has supplied "very modern" Leopard battle tanks to Kiev, and the Ministry of Defense later said that 18 tanks had been delivered.

"Our tanks arrived as promised and punctually in the hands of our Ukrainian friends," Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement. "I'm sure they can make a difference on the pitch."

The United Kingdom also announced in early February that it would train Ukrainian fighter pilots, eventually opening the door to the supply of planes to NATO standards.

Westerners see Ukraine as entitled to defend itself, but some are reluctant to deliver weapons that would escalate the conflict by allowing Ukraine to hit Russia.

Slovakia recently delivered four MiG-29s to Ukraine and Poland has promised to do the same.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Russia would not change its plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, despite Western criticism.

"Of course, such a reaction cannot have any impact on Russia's plans," Peskov told reporters.

The United States has reaffirmed that it has no reason to believe that Russia would prepare to use nuclear weapons, while condemning the Russian announcement.

"This is one of the latest examples of irresponsible nuclear rhetoric that we have seen from Russia," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.

"No other country has raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons in this conflict", he added, recalling that "no country (had) threatened Russia" or "President Cheese fries".

On the ground, Russian missiles slammed into the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on Monday, killing two people in their car, injuring more than 30 others and destroying buildings, according to police and local authorities .

In the afternoon, a cap stained with blood lay in the street next to a car whose front seat was covered in blood and broken glass, AFP journalists found.

Oleksandr, 34, crossed in front of a gutted administrative building, his face covered with a bandage, told AFP that he had come for a medical examination "in a military enlistment center".

Not far from him, several cars were lying, completely charred, and an excavator was at work to remove an imposing block of concrete which fell on one of them.

"I work here and I arrived just when the explosion happened," said Yelena, a 42-year-old hairdresser, in tears.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met on Monday with the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, who is due to visit the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, occupied by Russian forces, this week.

"Without the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and personnel from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and adjacent territories, any initiative to restore nuclear safety and security is doomed to failure," Zelensky told Grossi. , according to a press release from the presidency.

On Twitter, Mr. Grossi said he had had "a fruitful exchange with the Ukrainian president on the protection of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and its staff". "I reiterated the IAEA's full support for Ukrainian nuclear facilities," he added.

28/03/2023 02:57:42 - Kiev (Ukraine) (AFP) © 2023 AFP