Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko has branded Germany’s latest offer of 5,000 helmets to Ukraine a ‘joke’ in the latest swipe at Olaf Scholz’s lack of support for the threatened country.
The former boxer said he was left ‘speechless’ by Germany over their refusal to give substantial military aid and drop their support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline while Russian troops continue to amass on Ukraine’s border.
He told Bild: ‘The behaviour of the German government leaves me speechless.
‘The defence ministry apparently hasn’t realised that we are confronted with perfectly equipped Russian forces that can start another invasion of Ukraine at any time
‘What kind of support will Germany send next. Pillows?’
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Germany supports Ukraine and is aligned with other NATO countries over its condemnation of perceived Russian aggression.
But there is speculation that Germany’s reluctance to send arms to Ukraine may be influenced by its dependence on Russia for its supply of gas and Germany’s chequered military past.
Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko has branded Germany’s latest offer of 5,000 helmets to Ukraine a ‘joke’
A Strela-10 anti-aircraft missile system of the Ukrainian Armed Forces fires during anti-aircraft military drills today
Germany says it has long refused to export arms to conflict zones and is declining Ukraine’s appeals for weaponry
Earlier this week, Klitschko accused Germany of ‘betraying’ his country for their ‘failure to provide assistance and betrayal of friends’ as tensions reach boiling point amid increasing fears of an imminent invasion.
The ex-heavyweight champion wrote in Bild: ‘There is huge disappointment in Ukraine that the federal government is sticking to Nord Stream 2 and that it does not want to supply defence weapons.
‘This is failure to provide assistance and betrayal of friends in a dramatic situation in which our country is threatened by Russian troops from several borders.’
Germany meanwhile says it will stand with other NATO nations in condemning any Russian invasion, with Chancellor Scholz asserting yesterday that the price to be paid by Russia in the event of an incursion across the border would be ‘high’.
Scholz also pointed out that Germany has long maintained a policy of refusing to export arms to conflict zones.
But his country’s reluctance to offer material support to Ukraine in the form of much needed weaponry has fuelled speculation that Germany’s new left-wing government is unwilling to upset Vladimir Putin.
Europe’s gas markets are linked by a network of interconnecting pipelines, and while some countries have cut their reliance on Russian gas over the years, many would be unable to satisfy demand should Russia decide to slash their supply.
Germany depends on Russia for up to 40 per cent of its gas imports and the EU nation would struggle to find an alternative option should Russia decide to retaliate in the face of Germany providing weapons to Ukraine.
Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kiev
A service member of the 14th Separate Mechanised Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces takes part in anti-aircraft military drills today
Map showing points of origin and destination of the Nord Stream gas pipeline (solid line) and Nord Stream 2 pipeline (dotted line) between Russia and Germany. Germany depends on Russia for up to 40 per cent of its gas imports and the EU nation would struggle to find an alternative option should Russia retaliate in the face of strong economic sanctions following an invasion
Not only is Germany refusing to provide new weaponry to Ukraine, it has also blocked Estonia from providing Ukraine with old German-made howitzers, showcasing a considerable commitment to its refusal to arm the eastern European NATO ally.
Scholz’s strict stance on the matter has raised concerns not only in Ukraine, but also among other NATO countries and even German officials.
‘How many in Berlin are actually aware how our seemingly confused Ukraine policy harms not just (Germany) but the entire EU?’ asked Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany’s former ambassador to the United States and now head of the annual Munich Security Conference.
Deputy director of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies Rachel Ellehuus argued that Germany’s chequered military history in both world wars could be behind Scholz’s resolute stance.
‘There’s the obvious legacy of Germany’s own militarisation in Europe during two world wars that has led many German leaders to view any military response as the last resort,’ she said.
‘But the current government does not seem to grasp that sending defensive weapons to Ukraine might actually deter further Russian aggression.’
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the number of Russian troops deployed along his country’s border was not enough for a major attack.
‘The number of Russian troops amassed along the border of Ukraine and occupied territories of Ukraine is large,’ Kuleba said, referring to Moscow-annexed Crimea and separatist-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine.
He told reporters that ‘it poses a threat to Ukraine’ but is ‘insufficient for a full-scale offensive’.
Kuleba added that Russia is still capable of building up its deployments to ‘a sufficient level’ over time.
His comments are in contrast to those of Kyiv’s Western allies, including the US, who have warned that Russia may attack at any moment.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin (right) talk before a parliamentary session today
A serviceman holds his machine-gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants in Slavyanoserbsk
The US has responded to the growing concerns by urging its citizens in the ex-Soviet country to ‘consider departing now’.
‘The US embassy urges US citizens in Ukraine to consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,’ the embassy said in a statement, warning that the security situation ‘can deteriorate with little notice.’
US officials are convinced Putin intends to use force by mid-February, according to Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
She said today: ‘I have no idea whether he’s made the ultimate decision, but we certainly see every indication that he is going to use military force sometime perhaps (between) now and the middle of February.’
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it has any such designs, but the US and its NATO allies are worried about Russia deploying an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine and launching a series of sweeping military maneuvers.
As part of the drills, motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia practiced firing live ammunition, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea performed bombing runs, dozens of warships sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the Arctic, and Russian fighter jets and paratroopers arrived in Belarus for joint war games.
Elite paratroopers have also been moved close to the border for the first time amid fears of an operation to seize the capital of Kiev.
A train with the troops and their equipment was spotted moving west towards the potential warzone and appears to be the 217th Guards Parachute Regiment of the 98th Airborne Division.
The deployment was seen passing through Russia’s Bryansk region which borders both Ukraine and Belarus, as shown in a video posted on TikTok.
An American shipment of 300 anti-tank Javelin missiles worth $50million landed in Kiev overnight, the third batch of a $200million military aid package designed to bring death and destruction to Russia’s forces if Putin invades
An analysis by respected independent Russian researchers known as the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) indicates the tarpaulin-covered armoured vehicles in the video are BMD-4M airborne combat vehicles and BTR-MDM airborne armoured personnel carriers.
‘The train includes five passenger carriages, which can carry more than 250 people,’ said the Team.
It was also loaded with eight shortened two-axle Kamaz-43501 trucks, as used by Russia’s Airborne Troops.
The train originated from Tekstilny station in Ivanovo region, according to railway records, which is close to where the elite airborne forces are based, said the analysis.
‘This is the first confirmed video of paratroopers moving closer to the border with Ukraine,’ said the Team.
‘In any large-scale attack on the territory of Ukraine, the Airborne Forces should play a decisive role.’
Russia has been massing forces on Ukraine’s border for months, sparking fears that an invasion is imminent – and is now sabre-rattling across Europe including a new set of naval drills due to take place near Ireland (left)
They would act ‘either in a landing operation to capture strategic objects in the rear, or as shock infantry’.
The analysis said: ‘The appearance of paratroopers looks all the more ominous because in recent days there has been a continuous build-up of Russian groups in the south of the Bryansk region and in Belarus – in the south of Gomel region, north of Kyiv.’
It was not immediately clear if the paratroopers were heading for Belarus or a Russian region close to the border.
Meanwhile an 80-tonne shipment of US anti-tank missiles has arrived in Ukraine in the latest delivery of high-tech weapons aimed at inflicting maximum death and destruction on Putin’s forces if he decides to invade.
A plane loaded with 300 Javelin missiles worth some $50million landed in capital Kiev late Tuesday, the third part of a $200million shipment of American military aid that is being sent to help its ally.
The shipment also contained grenade launchers and ammunition, as well as other non-lethal weapons systems, and comes in addition to anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons already sent by the UK, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Javelins are American-made missiles that use infrared technology to lock on to targets, rising high into the air before slamming down – making them especially deadly against tanks because their armour is thinnest on top, though Javelins can also be used to blow up buildings.
In addition to the Javelins, Ukraine has been given American Stinger missiles which use similar technology to take out aircraft and helicopters, as well as British-made NLAWs – another kind of anti-tank rocket.
While such weapons are unlikely to tip any conflict decisively in Ukraine’s favour, they are designed to inflict punishing losses on Putin’s forces to make any invasion as costly and bloody for Moscow as possible.
US Javelin missile vs Russian T-72 tank: How ‘curveball’ killer is designed to destroy Putin’s war machines
The FGM-148 Javelin is a US-made missile that is primarily designed to destroy tanks, using a combination of ‘curveball’ attack – meaning it comes down on its targets from above – and dual high explosive warheads to take them out.
Javelins, which cost $175,000 each just for the missile, were developed in the 1990s and have been in service since 1996 – coming up against Russian-designed T-72 tanks during the Second Iraq War, where they proved particularly effective.
Russia still uses T-72 tanks – with dozens of T-72Bs now deployed near Ukraine – and while they have undergone several rounds of improvements since Saddam’s day, they are still thought to be vulnerable to the missile.
Javelins work by using infrared systems to lock on to their targets, meaning troops do not need to keep aiming after pulling the trigger. Once the missile is fired, it ejects from the tube using a small charge – meaning it can be fired in a confined space – before the main rockets ignite.
The missile then flies up to 490ft into the air before slamming down on its target from above – known as a ‘curveball’ shot.
Javelin missiles use a ‘curveball’ shot – approaching their target from above – which makes them especially deadly against tanks which have less armour on the top. They also have two warheads which are designed to overcome ‘reactive’ armour that Russia uses
A Russian T-72 tank is pictured on training exercises near Ukraine last week. Visible on the turret are ‘reactive’ armour plates – the rectangular boxes filled with explosives that detonate when struck, throwing incoming missiles off course
Russian T-72s are known to be fitted with up to 850mm of armour on their bodies, with the Javelin only able to penetrate through 800mm. But the armour on the top is significantly thinner, meaning the Javelin is easily able to breach it.
In order to combat this weakness, Russian tank turrets are typically fitted with ‘reactive’ armour, made of metal sheets layered with small explosive charges that detonate when they are struck.
These charges are too small to damage the tank, but large enough to throw incoming projectiles off course. The system is thought to add as much protection as up to 800mm of conventional armour.
But the Javelin has an answer to this, in the form of a high-explosive ‘tandem’ warhead. This means it is fitted with two charges that strike the exact same spot in quick succession.
The first is a small charge designed to set off the reactive armour, which cannot be used twice. Then a second, much-larger charge, punches through the conventional armour underneath.
Putin’s generals are clearly worried about this, because last November T-72 tanks began appearing on the frontlines with Ukraine with strange umbrella-like modifications over their main turrets – seemingly designed to defeat Javelins.
It is unclear whether such armour would even work, and what effects it might have on the tank’s ability to manoeuvre and shoot, but most tanks seen on the Russian frontlines in recent weeks don’t appear to have it fitted – meaning they are still vulnerable to attack.
Javelins can also be fired conventionally with a range of up to two and a half miles, meaning they can also be used to blow up buildings, shoot troops hiding in tunnels or caves, and can even attack low-flying or hovering helicopters.
And because Javelins are relatively small, lightweight, and can be carried by troops, it means they can be quickly transported to battlefields and deployed without the need to move or deploy accompanying vehicles.
Putin’s generals are clearly worried they are vulnerable to Javelins, because in recent months tanks have appeared on the frontlines fitted with makeshift armour over the main turret that appears designed to protect against them – though it is not clear this will work