Olodimir Zelensky vowed on Thursday to use tanks supplied by the West as a “fist of freedom” to destroy the “tyranny” of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
He praised the US, Germany and other allies for following Britain’s lead in supplying their military and battle tanks to Kyiv ahead of expected spring offensives by Russia.
“The important thing now is speed and volume. The speed of training of our army, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine. The volume of tank support, ”said the Ukrainian president in his overnight address.
“We must form a tank fist, a fist of freedom whose hits will not allow tyranny to stand again.”
Ukraine is seeking 300 modern tanks to give its troops the firepower to break through Russian defensive lines and retake territory held in the south and east.
Both Kyiv and Moscow have so far relied primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tanks.
The promise of the modern tanks comes as both Ukraine and Russia are expected to launch fresh offensives in the war and fighting in Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east has intensified.
Ukraine’s military said on Thursday that Ukraine’s military destroyed 24 drones, including 15 in Kyiv, that Russia launched in overnight attacks, raising a high risk of more Russian airstrikes.
An alert has been declared in most parts of the country, including the capital Kyiv.
More than 40,000 civilians are reported to have died during Putin’s war, which has entered its 12th month.
100,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or wounded, with similar casualty levels among Ukraine’s military.
US President Joe Biden announced his decision to supply Berlin with 31 M1 Abrams tanks after Berlin said it would provide the Leopard 2 tank, the workhorse of NATO forces across Europe.
Keeping up the drumbeat of Kyiv’s requests for more aid, Mr Zelensky said he had spoken to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and called for long-range missiles and aircraft.
There is also talk that Kyiv could be supplied with fighter jets, as well as long-range missiles capable of hitting some 200 miles behind the Russian border.
Mr Zelensky said: “I spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
We have to unlock the supply of long-range missiles to Ukraine, it is important for us to expand our cooperation in artillery, we have to get the supply of aircraft to Ukraine. And it’s a dream. And it is a task. An important task for all of us.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Wednesday that Berlin would supply the Leopards, and allowed other allies to send German-made models.
Russia reacted with fury to Germany’s move.
“This extremely dangerous decision takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation,” said Sergei Nechayev, Russia’s ambassador to Germany.
Leopards from Germany and other allies are expected to be delivered far more quickly than Abrams from the US, with speculation that the latter could take up to a year to arrive.
The United States has been wary of deploying the harder-to-maintain Abrams, but had to change tactics to persuade Germany to send its more easily operated Leopards to Ukraine.
Mr Biden said the tanks are “no offensive threat” to Russia and were needed to help the Ukrainians “improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain”.
Berlin would send an initial company of 14 tanks from its stock and would approve shipments by allied European states.
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the German tanks would probably be ready in three or four months.
Pledges to Ukraine from other countries that brought Leopard into the fray, along with announcements from Poland, Finland and Norway. Spain and the Netherlands said they were considering it.
Britain has offered 14 of its comparable Challenger tanks and France is considering sending its Leclercs.
The Kyiv government acknowledged on Wednesday that its forces had pulled out of Soledar, a small salt-mining town close to Bakhmut in the east that Russia said it captured more than a week ago, its first for more than six months. Biggest advantage.
The area around Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of 70,000, has seen some of the most brutal fighting of the war.
Ukraine’s military said that Russian forces were attacking in the direction of Bakhmut “with the aim of capturing the entire Donetsk region and regardless of their own casualties”.
The Russian-installed governor of Donetsk previously said units of Russia’s Wagner contract militia were advancing inside Bakhmut, fighting on the outskirts and in recently occupied areas of Ukraine.
Analyst Kevaluk said that losing Bakhmut would not change much in terms of the strategic scheme of things, but he was more concerned with Russian efforts to regroup and concentrate resources in the Luhansk region.
Donetsk and Luhansk make up the Eastern Donbass industrial region. Russian forces control almost all of Luhansk, while the Russians and their representatives say they control about half of Donetsk.
(Tags to translate) Volodymyr Zelensky