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Ukraine updates: Kyiv urges Germany-led tank alliance

December 23, 2022

Ukraine has renewed its request for Germany's main battle tank. Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has landed back in Kyiv after visiting the United States. DW has the latest.

The Leopard 2 battle tank during a training exercise
Ukraine has asked Germany to supply its Leopard 2 battle tankImage: Philipp Schulze/dpa/picture alliance

A senior Ukrainian official has called on Germany to establish a ''European tank alliance" to streamline military aid to Kyiv.

In an interview with the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland media outlet on Friday, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister and former ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, called on Germany to supply Kyiv with its Leopard main battle tank and Marder infantry fighting vehicle.

"If the German government doesn't want to go it alone on deliveries, then Germany could pursue a leadership role on the continent in this, forging a European tank alliance," Melnyk said.

Melnyk previously floated the idea of an alliance to supply tanks when he stepped down as ambassador in October.

At the time, he suggested European states could pool their stocks of around 2,000 Leopard 2 tank and deliver 10% of those to Ukraine.

In the interview on Friday, Melnyk also asked Germany to follow the United States by delivering the Patriot air defense system.

Berlin recently delivered the system to NATO partner Poland, but prevented Warsaw from forwarding the equipment on to Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has previously said Germany would not unilaterally deliver tanks to Ukraine without support from other countries in Europe.

However, Melnyk called on him to "massively increase military support for my homeland without any ifs or buts."

Ukraine needs longer-range artillery, tanks: Mike Martin

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Friday, December 23:

US calls on Putin to keep 'acknowledging reality' after using term 'war'

The United States wryly responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin after he finally called the conflict in Ukraine a "war."

Since Putin ordered the invasion in February, Russia has officially dubbed the conflict a "special military operation" and imposed a law that criminalizes those who call the conflict a war. But at a news conference on Thursday, Putin himself used the word "war" as he said that he hoped to end it as soon as possible.

"Since February 24, the United States and rest of the world knew that Putin's 'special military operation' was an unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. Finally, after 300 days, Putin called the war what it is," a State Department spokesperson said.,

"As a next step in acknowledging reality, we urge him to end this war by withdrawing his forces from Ukraine," he added.

Zelenskyy warns Ukrainians of Russian attacks over holidays

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned of possible Russian attacks on the upcoming holidays and during the holiday season. 

"With the holiday season approaching, Russian terrorists could become active again," Zelenskyy said in his daily video address. "They despise Christian values and any values in general."

Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to be extra vigilant in the coming days. "Therefore, please pay attention to the air raid signals, help each other and always look out for each other," he said. 

At the same time, he issued an unusually sharp warning to Russia. "The citizens of Russia must clearly understand that terror never goes unanswered," he said, without elaborating.

Putin tells Russian defense industry to up its game for Ukraine war

President Vladimir Putin told Russia's defense industry chiefs to up their game to ensure that the Russian army quickly acquires all the weapons, equipment and military hardware it needs to fight in Ukraine. Putin made the comments during a visit to Tula, a centre for arms manufacturing. 

"The most important key task of our military-industrial complex is to provide our units and frontline forces with everything they need: weapons, equipment, ammunition, and gear in the necessary quantities and of the right quality in the shortest possible timeframes," he said.

Putin said this week that the Russian army had to learn from and fix the problems it had faced in Ukraine, promising to give it whatever it needed to carry out a war nearing the end of its 10th month.

IAEA reports problems at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the thinning of the professional staff in the Ukraine's Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been causing problems. 

The facility is currently operated by fewer staff than planned and war damage has to be repaired, which ahs increased the workload of the remaining employees, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said.

After the nuclear plant faced intensive shelling about a month ago, relative calm had recently returned to the facility.

"The power plant is on a contested front, in the midst of a great war," he said, calling again for a security zone around the nuclear plant. Talks to set up such a zone "are progressing," Grossi said on Friday after meeting Russian officials in Moscow the day before.

The IAEA chief's initiative envisages that Russia and Ukraine stop shelling the nuclear facility. At the same time, Russia is to withdraw heavy weapons from the nuclear power plant in order to de-escalate the situation. According to the state nuclear operator Rosatom, Moscow largely approves of the plan.

Ukraine plans to open 10 new embassies in Africa

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would boost its footprint in Africa next year by opening 10 new embassies and strengthening trade ties with the continent.

Ukraine has been trying to rally African countries to its cause as it fights off Russia's full-scale invasion, in part by promoting a humanitarian grain initiative to help alleviate hunger in highly vulnerable countries.

"We are overhauling relations with dozens of African countries," Zelenskyy told a gathering of diplomats in Kyiv. "Next year we need to strengthen this."

Besides opening the new embassies, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would also aim to set up trade representative offices in several key hubs on the continent — which he described as a region "where our interests are so far represented less than we need."

He did not specify in which countries those new embassies or trade offices would be located, but added that he would like Ukraine to eventually be represented in 30 countries on the continent.

The Netherlands to support Ukraine with €2.5 billion in 2023

As long as Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, the Netherlands will "continue to support Ukraine," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter on Friday. The Hague will “provide €2.5 billion for this in 2023,” he added.

The government said the amount is expected to be used for military aid, construction and law enforcement support. Specifically, the funds are earmarked for infrastructure repairs, including power supplies and hospitals. 

However, their exact use depends "on the needs of the Ukrainians and thus on the course of the war," Rutte said.

Canada condemns North Korean arms sale to Wagner Group

Canada condemned what it said were North Korean arms deliveries to Russia, saying Pyongyang's transaction with the private military company the Wagner Group "clearly violates international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions."

"We will continue to work with international partners to address these developments and respond to further arms deliveries should they take place," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement.

In a statement, North Korea's foreign ministry denied that it had supplied munitions to Russia but did not make any mention of Wagner.

The United States on Thursday said North Korea had completed an initial arms delivery to the Wagner Group to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.

Local politician attacks Putin for Ukraine 'war' reference

A St Petersburg politician has asked prosecutors to investigate Russian President Vladimir Putin for using the word "war" to describe the conflict in Ukraine, accusing the Kremlin chief of breaking his own law.

Putin has for months described his invasion as a "special military operation." He signed laws in March that prescribe steep fines and jail terms for discrediting or spreading "deliberately false information" about the armed forces, putting people at risk of prosecution if they call the war by its name.

But he departed from his usual language on Thursday when he told reporters: "Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war."

Nikita Yuferev, an opposition councillor in the city where Putin was born, said he knew his legal challenge would go nowhere, but he had filed it to expose the "mendacity" of the system.

In his challenge, filed in an open letter, Yuferev asked the prosecutor general and interior minister to "hold (Putin) responsible under the law for spreading fake news about the actions of the Russian army."

Deutsche Bahn supplies Ukrainian railway with generators

Germany's national railway operator, Deutsche Bahn, is supporting Ukraine's state railway company with emergency generators in the wake of ongoing Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

The first 63 generators being sent to Ukraine were loaded in Hanover, Deutsche Bahn announced. The donated generators are to be used to power maintenance facilities and train stations, as well as on trains to bridge the supply of lighting, heating and hot water.

Another 325 emergency generators are scheduled to follow in January to supply power to passengers and at the workplaces of the Ukrainian railways.

Zelenskyy back in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy returned home on Friday after a visit to Washington in which he secured $1.85 billion (€1.74 billion) military aid package.

On his way back to Ukraine, Zelenskyy stopped briefly in Poland to meet President Andrzej Duda, another important ally. 

"We are working for victory. Good day to all!" Zelenskyy in his first video address since returning to Kyiv.

The Ukrainian president used the opportunity to thank the Netherlands for pledging up to €2.5 billion to help pay for military equipment and rebuild critical infrastructure next year.

What do Ukrainians think about Zelenskyy's visit to the US?

More DW content on the war in Ukraine

With routine power outages and families torn apart, Ukraine's holiday season this year will be like no other. DW met a Ukrainian family celebrating Christmas in a war zone.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has just returned from one of his most significant trips since the Russian invasion started. DW's Bernd Johann explains why Ukraine will benefit from more than just the Patriot air defense system.

zc/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)