Britain sends heavy battle tanks to Ukraine Al Jazeera

Britain sends heavy battle tanks to Ukraine

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to supply Ukraine with heavy tanks and artillery systems, prompting criticism from the Russian embassy in London.

Sunak promised to send the 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine after speaking on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday, according to a statement from his office.

This makes the UK the first western country to deliver the heavy tanks demanded by Kyiv.

Sunak said the tanks were a sign of “Britain’s desire to step up our support for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in a phone call.

The Ukrainian leader expressed his appreciation for Britain’s military support on Twitter, saying: “The decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but will also send the right signal to other partners”.

Sunak’s office said the British Prime Minister believes a “long and static war only serves Russia’s interests”.

“British defense and security officials believe a window has opened where Russia is lagging behind due to supply problems and falling morale,” the statement said. “The Prime Minister therefore encourages allies to deploy their planned support for 2023 as soon as possible for maximum impact.”

The squadron of Challenger-2 tanks, main battle tanks designed to attack other tanks, will advance into Ukraine in the coming weeks. About 30 AS90, large, self-propelled guns operated by five gunners, are to follow, it said.

Russia responded to Britain’s promise by warning that it would only “intensify” the conflict.

“Bringing tanks to the conflict zone, far from ending hostilities, will only serve to intensify combat operations and cause more casualties, including among civilians,” the Russian embassy in London said.

Ukraine has been asking for heavier tanks, including the US Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks, for months. However, some Western leaders have tread cautiously.

Poland and the Czech Republic provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to the Ukrainian army.

While Poland has also expressed its willingness to supply Leopard tanks, President Andrzej Duda stressed that the move would only be possible as part of a larger international coalition to provide tank assistance to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, France said it would send AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicles, dubbed “light tanks” in France, to Ukraine. The US and Germany announced that same week that they would be sending Bradley combat vehicles and Marder armored personnel carriers, respectively, for the first time.

Britain’s decision to provide the tanks came as Russian forces fired rockets at the Ukrainian capital and other cities across the country on Saturday, hitting critical infrastructure.

At least 12 people were killed and more than 64 injured in the southeastern city of Dnipro when a Russian missile attack destroyed part of an apartment building, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

Seven children were among the wounded, the youngest three years old, he added, saying “the fate of 26 people is still unknown”.

Infrastructure facilities in the western Lviv region and northeastern Kharkiv were also hit. The capital Kyiv was also attacked.