(Bloomberg) --

No decision was made on the provision of Germany’s Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine at Friday’s meeting on Friday at Ramstein Air Base, although Berlin ordered a review of its tank inventories that could be a prelude to an offer. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also had no news to share on M1 Abrams main battle tanks from the US. 

Even so, Austin warned that Ukraine needs advanced weapons before an expected new Russian offensive. “We have a window of opportunity here between now and the spring, whenever they commence their operation,” Austin said. 

Some Ukrainian officials criticized the allies’ indecision over tank donations, but defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said he expected Kyiv’s troops to start training soon on Leopard tanks in Poland. 

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Key Developments

  • Austin Warns US Allies Time Is Short Before Russian Offensive
  • German Tanks to Kyiv Are Stuck as US Resists Sending Its Own 
  • Russia Boosts Air Defenses Around Moscow Amid Drone-Strike Fears
  • Scholz and Macron Pledge to Strengthen EU in Response to Russia
  • Russian Billionaire Yacht Helpers Charged in US Sanction Scheme
  • Europe’s Need For Russian Gas Seems to be Dwindling

On the Ground

Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attacks in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the past 24 hours, the armed forces’ general staff said on Facebook. Russian troops also fired at Ukrainian-controlled territory with mortars and artillery in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in the south, causing civilian casualties, it added. Russia in the past day fired seven missiles and carried out 15 air strikes, the general staff said. Ukraine has likely “made small gains and successfully defended against a Russian counter-attack” near Kremina in the northeast in recent days, the UK defense ministry said.

(All times CET) 

German Defense Chief to Visit Ukraine Soon (12 a.m.)

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has announced that he will travel to Ukraine as soon as possible. “What is certain is that I will travel to Ukraine quickly. Probably even within the next four weeks,” Pistorius told newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Regarding the decision on the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine Pistorius said: “We are in very close dialog on this issue with our international partners, first and foremost with the USA. In order to be best prepared for possible decisions, I instructed my ministry on Friday to check everything to such an extent that we do not lose unnecessary time if the worst comes to the worst.”

Russia’s RT Says Its French Unit Will Close (6 p.m.)

RT France, a unit of the Russian television channel RT, said it was closing after the French government froze its bank accounts. 

“Under the guise of the 9th package of sanctions against Russia, which doesn’t target our channel but our shareholder and parent company, the Treasury has decided to freeze RT France’s accounts, making it impossible to continue operating,” it wrote in a statement published on the Twitter account of Xenia Fedorova, the channel’s president. 

Minister Says Ukraine Will Train on Leopards in Poland (3 p.m.)

Kyiv’s troops will train on German-made Leopard tanks in Poland, a “breakthrough” reached during the Ramstein allies meeting, Ukraine’s defense minister said. 

Oleksii Reznikov told Voice of America’s Ukrainian service in an interview that his country’s tank teams will begin training soon. So far, the battle tanks haven’t been offered by Germany for deployment - but Reznikov said he was “very satisfied” with Friday’s outcome and that “some new packages” were agreed but not announced. 

“We will start with that, and we will go from there,” he said. “I have a hope that Germany in a quiet pace of its internal consultations will reach the decision that the transfer of tanks is possible.” 

Ukraine Collects Proof of Iran’s Drones Supply to Russia (4 p.m.)

Kyiv has evidence to prove the involvement of Iranian officials and other individuals in the production and delivery of drones to Russia and the use of drones against Ukraine, Yuriy Bielousov, head of the military crimes department of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, said in a television interview. 

An investigation is to be completed soon and prosecutors will then seek to take the matter to Ukrainian and international courts, he said. 

Zelenskiy, Wife Attend Service for Interior Minister (1 p.m.) 

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena Zelenska, attended a ceremony in Kyiv for Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, his deputy Yevhen Yenin, and ministry staff killed Wednesday in a helicopter crash east of the capital. 

Thousands of people paid their respects during and after a procession from the ministry’s offices to Independence Square, according to ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko. 

A separate memorial for three pilots killed in the incident will take place at a helicopter base in the Chernihiv region. The cause of the crash, which also killed children near a kindergarten, hasn’t been determined. 

Ukraine Official Calls Tank Impasse ‘Huge Disappointment’: CNN (10:10 a.m.)

Germany indecision on whether to send its main battle tanks to Kyiv is a “huge disappointment for all Ukrainians,” Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk told CNN. 

In an interview Friday, Melnyk praised the UK’s recent decision to pledge its Challenger 2 tanks, adding he hoped the move might prompt other countries to follow suit. “That might be a trigger, hopefully, for other countries but unfortunately not for Germany yet,” he said. 

Separately, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak urged allies to “think faster” and said indecision “is killing more of our people.”

Baltic Nations Push Germany Again on Leopard Tanks (8 a.m.)

The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia again called on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine, after no decision on the issue emerged Friday from the allied donors’ meeting in Germany. 

“Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard,” Lithuania’s Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Twitter. 

US Charges Two Men in Yacht Sanctions Case (11:30 p.m.)

Two men were charged by US authorities with helping operate Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s yacht in violation of sanctions imposed four years ago.

Vekselberg’s $90 million, 255-foot vessel called Tango was seized by Spain at the behest of the US in April, a high-profile victory for the Department of Justic’s KleptoCapture unit, formed to track down the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs and others close to President Vladimir Putin.

Russian Vladislav Osipov, 51, and Richard Masters, 52, of the UK, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, the department said Friday. They’re accused of facilitating a scheme of sanctions evasion and money laundering. Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday at the request of the US and a warrant for Osipov remains outstanding, according to the statement.

Austin Warns US Allies Time Is Short Before Russian Offensive (8:23 p.m.)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said time is running out to give Ukraine the advanced weapons it needs before an expected Russian offensive in the spring, as both the US and Germany hold out against Kyiv’s requests for their most powerful battle tanks.

Austin said allied officials agreed at a meeting in Germany on Friday they would ensure that Ukraine gets the weapons it needs and the training to use them properly. He sought to play down any discord over whether to provide heavy tanks, which have been a key demand as Ukraine looks to blunt Russian forces in the east.

Read more: Austin Warns US Allies Time Is Short Before Russian Offensive

US Labels a Wagner Criminal Group (8:45 p.m.)

The US dubbed Russia’s Wagner Group a transnational criminal organization in a new effort to blunt the mercenary company’s powerful role on the battlefield in Ukraine and around the world.

New sanctions will be coming next week against the group, which the US now believes has about 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. The Treasury Department designation will given the administration new authority to impose financial restrictions on Wagner and those who work for it.

The move marked the latest effort to disrupt the group, which has continued to gain prominence and power around the globe despite a raft of US, UK and European Union sanctions. The group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is considered a major ally and supporter of President Vladimir Putin and his war effort in Ukraine.  

North Korean Munitions Aiding Russian Effort (6:28 p.m.)

North Korean munitions and equipment have been delivered to the Wagner group to support their effort on behalf of Russia in Ukraine, according to a senior NATO official. While the amount of material that’s been delivered won’t change the battlefield dynamics in Ukraine, allies are concerned North Korea could deliver further military equipment.

The NATO official also noted changing tactics by Russia, including building up of more defensive infrastructure such as new trench lines in northern Crimea. In addition, the Russian military also appears to be attempting to maintain shorter logistics lines, though this will make them more dependent on Russian territory to enable logistics, the official said.


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