Army poised to send game-changing tanks to Ukraine to smash Russia

Russian warship conducts air defence exercise in Norwegian Sea

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Defence chiefs are considering plans to give Ukraine around 10 Challenger 2s – the British Army’s main battle tank – to fight Russian forces.

Kyiv has been calling for Western allies to send advanced tanks and other armoured vehicles to help them launch a fresh counteroffensive.

Poland confirmed an “international coalition” will send Ukraine a company of Leopard 2 tanks.

Rishi Sunak has ordered Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to hold urgent talks with allies on “how we can go even further and faster on our support to Ukraine, including the provision of tanks”.

Germany must consent to 13 European allies sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as Berlin holds the export licence. They have been concerned it could lead to a huge escalation of the war.

Britain’s Challenger 2s’ armour can withstand a direct strike from Russian tanks and boasts the longest range in Europe.

Western officials believe that Ukraine will not be able to seize back significant territory from Russia without an increase in military capability, including tanks and armoured vehicles.

Ukrainian diplomats say they need hundreds of tanks to achieve a decisive breakthrough in the war which Putin launched last February

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are accelerating our support to Ukraine with the kind of next generation military technology that will help win this war.

“It’s clear that battle tanks could provide a game-changing capability to the Ukrainians.

“The Prime Minister told President Zelensky last week the UK will provide whatever we can.

“The Prime Minister has asked the Defence Secretary to work with partners in the coming weeks to discuss how we can go even further and faster on our support to Ukraine including the provision of tanks.”

France has announced a consignment of AMX-10 RC “light tanks”, the US has said it will send 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and Germany has consented to donate up to 40 Marder IFVs.

Western officials say Russian and Ukrainian forces are “finely balanced” and tanks could “break that deadlock”.

Ukraine will also be provided with a company of Leopard tanks as part of an international coalition of allies, one of which will be Poland, Polish President Andrzej Duda has said.

“Recently, we really decided to transfer such support [tanks] to Ukraine from Poland. A company of Leopard tanks will be provided within the framework of the coalition,” Duda said at a press conference with the presidents of Ukraine and Lithuania in Lviv as part of the Lublin Triangle.

Allies have already decided to form an international coalition, Mr Duda said.

“You know that it is necessary to obtain certain official agreements and consents. But first we need to create an international coalition. And we have decided to form this international coalition,” he said.

Western officials said: “The Ukrainians won’t be unable to win back significant amounts of territory without changes to their force posture from last year. The force ratios between the Russians and the Ukrainians are too finely balanced,” the official said.

“Something needs to break that deadlock, especially if they (the Ukrainians) are to win territory back and go on the offensive. Main battle tanks and APCs (armoured personnel carriers) are part of that mix.

“I think the Ukrainians would look to all partners who might provide tanks won’t be particularly worried about where they come from just so long as they come in sufficient volume.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted the conflict will not escalate into World War Three.

He said, addressing Golden Globe delegates in Hollywood: “There are still battles and tears ahead.

“But now I can tell you who was the best in the previous year – you in the free world, who united around support of free Ukrainian people.

Mr Zelensky recalled the Golden Globes of the early 1940s, before World War II had ended.

He said Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion symbolises “the struggle for the right of the new generations to know about the war only from movies.”

“The First World War claimed millions of lives. The Second World War claimed tens of millions of them. There will be no third World War. It is not a trilogy,” Zelensky said, promising Ukraine “will stop the Russian aggression” with the help of the free world.

The fate of a devastated salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine hung in the balance Wednesday as Ukraine said its forces were holding out against a furious Russian onslaught in one of the fiercest and costliest recent ground battles of the nearly 11-month war.

Soledar was under heavy shelling by Russian forces using jets, mortars and rockets. A Ukrainian military officer near Soledar said the Russian assault was unrelenting.

The Russians first send one or two waves of soldiers, many from the private Russian military contractor Wagner Group, who take heavy casualties as they probe the Ukrainian defences, a Ukrainian military official said.

After those first assaults, when Ukrainian troops have taken some casualties and are exhausted, the Russians send a fresh wave of highly-trained soldiers, paratroopers or special forces, said the Ukrainian officer, who insisted on anonymity for security reasons.

Soledar’s fall, while unlikely to provide a turning point in the war, would be a prize for a Kremlin starved of good news from the battlefield in recent months.

It would also offer Russian troops a strategic springboard for their efforts to conquer other areas of Donetsk province that remain under Ukrainian control, such as the nearby strategic city of Bakhmut.

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