Ukraine war – latest: Zelenskyy highlights 'one European capital … – Sky News

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his government is expecting “strong decisions” from defence ministers of NATO as they meet to discuss military assistance to Ukraine; Poland is “moderately pessimistic” about German tank donations. Listen to the Ukraine War Diaries podcast as you scroll.
By Siobhan Robbins, Sky News Europe Correspondent
In an emotional plea, President Zelenskyy, entreated allies to supply the tanks “that will stop Russian evil.”
He was addressing dozens of defence ministers gathered at Ramstein air base but the message was aimed at one audience member in particular.
Amid mounting pressure, Germany has so far been reluctant to release the Leopard 2 tanks which many say are crucial to Ukraine as Russian plans its next offensive.
This reluctance isn’t just dictating German actions, but also delaying neighbours from exporting their stocks because Berlin has to give the go ahead.
While the new Defence Minister said in an interview on public TV station ZDF that “Nobody rules out that the Leopard tank can be delivered –
or approval can be given for deliveries of other European partners,” there still hasn’t been an official green light.
This is causing frustration and division among allies at a time when unity is essential.
Poland has already threatened to send its Leopard 2 tanks without approval.
While the German Chancellor this week dodged questions about the tanks, most sources I’ve spoken to in Berlin believe a fear of escalation is the reason behind Berlin dragging its heels.
On this point, the German public seem to partly share Olaf Scholz’s concerns.
A recent poll for ZDF found 42 per cent of respondents were in favour of supplying Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks and 46 per cent were against.
For months, the Chancellor has been clear that no modern battle tanks would be delivered without partners.
But this week, Britain committed to send 14 Challenger 2s.
By this measure, the criteria has been met and experts say a continued failure to commit will seriously dent the country’s reputation.
“If Germany doesn’t want to even allow European nations to export their tanks to Ukraine, that would be extremely damaging to Germany’s reputation, or, I think, the personal reputation of the German Chancellor,” Nico Lange, Senior Fellow at the Munich Security Conference told me.
“It’s also a question of can the Chancellor be trusted in what he says? And of course, for Germany which builds its foreign policy on steadiness, on reputation and on being a reliable partner, I think that would be a big blow.”
This tank spat is also distracting from the fact that Berlin has already committed more than $2 billion dollars of military aid to Ukraine, one of the highest amounts after the United States.
Earlier this month, the government said it hoped to supply 40 Marder fighting vehicles by March and promised more weapons to come.
And while many partners agree decisions over which weapons to send must be taken carefully to prevent fighting from spreading, Germany’s perceived overcaution threatens to undermine its reputation and overshadow the huge amount of support it’s given to Ukraine.
Sweden is bracing for demonstrations Saturday that could complicate its efforts to persuade Turkey to approve its NATO accession. 
A far-right activist from Denmark has received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where he intends to burn the Quran, Islam’s holy book. 
Meanwhile, both pro-Turkish and pro-Kurdish 
groups are planning demonstrations in the Swedish capital. 

All new NATO member states need unanimous approval in order to join the alliance, meaning that Turkey’s hesitation is an obstacle to Sweden’s bid to join. 
Turkey alleges that Sweden has supported members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and provided protection for them.
Sweden denies this and says it supports other Kurds who are not affiliated with the group.
Germany is ready to move quickly on Leopard tanks if there is an agreement with allies, its defence minister has said.
Boris Pistorius said it is “wrong” to say that Germany is blocking Leopard tank deliveries and that there is good reasons for and against sending them to Ukraine.
Germany owns the export licence for the Leopard 2 main battle tank, meaning that its authorisation is believed to be required for other countries to send their Leopards to Ukraine.
Priority number one is air defence for Ukraine, Germany’s defence minister has said.
Comments are just coming through from new defence minister Boris Pistorius.
He says that Germany will not stop, will not waiver in its support for Ukraine.
Ukraine has long been calling for the West to send tanks to help its forces fight Russia, and at the top of the list has been the Leopard 2.
Considered a main battle tank in the same way as the Challenger 2 and first introduced in 1979, it is offers good protection against armour-piercing rounds and anti-tank guided weapons.
It has been reported that the Leopard 2 was estimated to be able to penetrate frontal armour of the Soviet-made T-72 tank from 2,000 metres away and that of the T-62 from more than 4,000 metres – both of which are in use by the Russian military in Ukraine.
Germany has large stocks of Leopard tanks, but many other European countries have their own.
Many nations are believed to be waiting for authorisation from Berlin – which owns the export licence – to send their Leopards to Ukraine.
It is up to individual states to decide what aid to send to Ukraine, but the UK would encourage them to send more, Number 10 says.
Asked if Germany should send tanks to Kyiv, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said it was ultimately up to individual countries.
However, they said the UK government would encourage them to increase their contributions.
Britain’s defence secretary remains committed to support for Ukraine, the spokesperson added.
The Netherlands could send F-16 fighter planes to Ukraine if Kyiv asks for it, according to Dutch media.
During a parliamentary debate on Thursday, Minister Wopke Hoekstra of Foreign Affairs said the Cabinet would look at such a request with an “open mind”.
The Netherlands – a member of NATO – is also willing to help pay for Leopard 2 tanks that other countries send to Ukraine, Dutch minister of defence Kajsa Ollongren said.
Supplying F-16 planes would be a major step up in the aid given to Ukraine and would also most likely require training for Ukrainian pilots, who are used to flying Soviet MiG-29 fighters.
A Russian missile has struck near a nursery in Kramatorsk, according to a Ukrainian official.
First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzheppar says the “consequences of the strike are being established”.
The latest package of weaponry to Ukraine is the most significant since the Russians invaded, Sky News US Correspondent Mark Stone says.
The numbers are staggering – financially and in terms of the pieces of military hardware that the Americans are giving away.
The cost is some $2.5bn (£2bn). It includes 59 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, 90 Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicles and 350 Humvees – the large 4×4 vehicle and an icon of the US Army. 
There are also over 21,000 artillery rounds of different types and much more beyond.
Read more:
Poland could send Leopard tanks without authorisation, a German government spokesperson has said.
They added that they had no information on an official request.
Germany owns the export licence for the Leopard main battle tank so officially needs to authorise other countries sending it abroad.
The spokesperson’s comments follow Poland’s prime minister saying his country could send its tanks whether or not it gets German permission.
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