An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the West’s “hesitation” about sending additional weapons to Ukraine “is killing more of our people”.
“Every day of delay means the death of Ukrainians,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
His comments come after Ukraine’s defense minister said he had a “frank discussion” with his German counterpart about German Leopard 2 tanks that Kyiv urgently requires to counter Russian armor.
Germany has insisted it is not blocking deliveries of German-made Leopard tanks, which other countries want to send.
“We had a frank discussion about the Leopard 2 tanks. We will resume later,” Oleksey Reznikov said after meeting with the Western allies on Friday.
The meeting, held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, reached an agreement to supply more armored vehicles, air defense systems and ammunition.
An adviser to Reznikov told the BBC on Saturday that NATO countries committed to helping Ukraine should be several steps ahead of the enemy.
Yuri Sack said the West needs to redefine what it means to stand with Ukraine – and that it does not mean simply stabilizing Ukraine’s front line.
“To be able to defend our land means to be able to end the occupation of our land and liberate our lands, and for this we need heavy tanks, and for this we need armored vehicles,” he said.
The Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a potential game-changer for Ukraine, as they are easy to maintain and specifically designed to compete with the Russian T-90 tanks being used in the invasion.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said opinions were still divided over supplying Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and denied that Berlin was obstructing such a move.
Under German export laws, other countries that want to supply Leopard tanks – such as Poland and Finland – are unable to do so until Berlin gives permission.
What weapons are being supplied to Ukraine?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised NATO partners for their military assistance, but said, “We still have to fight for the supply of modern tanks.”
“Every day we make it clear that there is no alternative, and that a decision must be made about the tanks,” he added.
The tanks currently used by Ukraine are mostly old Soviet models, and Russian forces often outnumber and arm them.
There are more than two thousand Leopard tanks in storage across Europe. And President Zelensky believes that about 300 of them can help defeat Russia.
Pistorius said Berlin was ready to move quickly if there was a consensus among the allies, but he could not say when a decision would be made on the tanks.
Germany found itself in a bind due to several factors, including international diplomacy and the legacy of World War II.
Germany used to adopt a policy of not sending weapons to conflict areas, but it was amended after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Late last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Germany was now among the allies providing most of the military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine by providing artillery, air defense systems and Marder infantry fighting vehicles.
But Germany is reluctant to send Leopard tanks unless they are part of a broader NATO package, preferably including powerful US M1 Abrams tanks. The United States has rejected this, saying the Abrams tanks are impractical for Ukrainian forces because they are difficult and expensive to maintain.
Regardless, there is pressure on the US to send in its tanks, and to persuade Germany to do the same.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied that Berlin was waiting for the United States to take the first step. “This idea of opening (for tanks) – in my opinion is not a problem,” he said after Friday’s meeting of 54 nations.
The specter of the destruction caused by Germany in World War II during the Nazi era still haunts it, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes a cautious path regarding any connection to any escalation in Ukraine.
Johann Wadphul, a senior politician in Germany’s opposition Christian Democrats, condemned the government’s “no policy” on tanks, saying it would affect Germany’s international reputation. “What is Schultz waiting for?” he asked.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau also criticized Germany’s indecision.
“Arming Ukraine in order to fend off Russian aggression is not some kind of decision-making exercise. Ukrainian blood is really being spilled. This is the price of reluctance to deliver Leopard tanks. We need to act, now,” he tweeted.
Western countries have allocated billions of dollars for other weapons, but without Germany’s commitment to send tanks, this was not the result that Ukraine had hoped for.
Other countries have committed to sending tanks, including the United Kingdom, which will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks.
The United States announced more than $2.5 billion in new support last week, including for armored vehicles.
The Pentagon promised an additional 59 Bradley armored vehicles, 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers, and Avenger air defense systems, among other supplies.
Nine European countries also promised support for their weapons after a meeting in Estonia on Thursday.