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January 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Amy Woodyatt, Leinz Vales, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN
Ukrainian ambassador: "We need these tanks now"
From CNN's Matt Meyer
"Time is of the essence" in getting Western tanks into Ukraine before Russia launches an anticipated spring offensive, a top Ukrainian diplomat told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday.
"We need these tanks now," said Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.
The tanks are "very much needed now, so that our brave defenders can be protected. So we can maneuver, we can fire and actually we can go back on the counteroffensive and we can preempt this future attacks Russia is actually planning to expand during the spring," Markarova said.
Germany has so far failed to reach an agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, despite growing pressure to step up its military aid and pleas from Kyiv for more weapons.
Germany has denied claims it is dragging its feet and has called on the US to send its own tanks to Ukraine.
Blitzer asked Markarova about the US government's argument that its M1 Abrams tanks would be more difficult to operate and maintain — and therefore less helpful — than the German Leopards.
"Of course we are consulting with our partners, 'What will be the most effective one? What can we get in large numbers, maintain on the battlefield, repair if necessary?'" the ambassador said.
"It looks like the Leopard is something that a number of allies are ready to discuss with us, have in quantity and would be a little bit easier to maintain and repair," Markarova said. "But again, as we discussed ... there is no discussion that is not being held at the moment."
Despite concerns over the delivery of Western tanks, the ambassador opened her discussion with Blitzer by thanking the US for its latest aid package and other allies for all of their military support.
Ukraine's deputy foreign minister disappointed Germany has yet to make a decision regarding tanks
From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq
Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk has expressed his frustrations as Germany is yet to decide whether or not to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Melnyk called Germany's indecisiveness a "disappointment," after first praising the UK for moving forward with a pledge of Challenger 2 tanks, adding he hoped the move might trigger other countries to follow suit.
The UK is the "first nation to deliver Challenger 2 main battle tanks and that might be a trigger, hopefully, for other countries but unfortunately not for Germany yet," he told CNN Friday.
Germany has so far failed to reach an agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, despite growing pressure from NATO and Kyiv to step up its military aid ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive.
The newly-appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters on the sidelines of a high-stakes defense meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday that no decision has been made yet regarding sending the tanks to Ukraine.
"The government in Germany has not taken this important decision, not just to first allow other nations like Poland, Finland or Spain or Greece, which do have German battle tanks, to do the same, but also strengthen and create this, as we call it 'Global Tanks Coalition' to help Ukrainian forces to push out the Russians and to start the spring counteroffensive which will allow us to liberate the occupied territories," Melnyk said.
"We are disappointed, but still the decision has not been taken yet so we hope that the government in Berlin will take seriously all of the concerns they heard (on Friday) in Ramstein," Melnyk added.
CNN reported that German officials indicated they wouldn't send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so unless the US also agreed to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.
It's after midnight in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
From CNN staff
Western allies met at Ramstein Air Base in Germany Friday where Germany failed to agree to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 main battle tanks after days of negotiations.
Here are the latest developments:
Military assistance progress: German officials have indicated they won’t send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine — or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so — unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv, something the Pentagon has said for months it has no intention of doing given the logistical costs of maintaining them.
Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said there is “no alternative” to sending main battle tanks to Ukraine. And the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, said Ukraine is paying with blood for the West’s hesitation.
Biden ensured Friday that "Ukraine is going to get all the help they need" when a reporter asked if he supports Poland's goal to send the German-made tanks to Ukraine.
In a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other government officials in Ukraine Friday, US Sens. Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse urged both the US and Germany to send tanks. They're part of a growing group of officials applying pressure on Germany to step up its military aid and pleas from Kyiv for more weapons.
Ex-Navy SEAL killed: Daniel W. Swift, who was a Special Warfare Operator 1st Class, was killed Wednesday in Ukraine, the Navy said in a statement. Swift deserted the military on March 11, 2019.
Aid announcements: The Netherlands will send two launchers and rockets for Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine, the country’s Ministry of Defense said Friday. And in Germany, newly appointed Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced a $1.08 billion military aid package Friday for Ukraine.
Escalation warning: The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of an escalation in Ukraine in the event of an increase in the supply of Western weapons to Kyiv, according to a statement. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley reiterated Friday that Russia's war in Ukraine will likely "end in a negotiation" and not on the battlefield.
Wagner Group designation: The US Treasury Department will designate the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group as a “transnational criminal organization," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby announced Friday. The Treasury will also impose new sanctions next week against the group and its global allies, the White House said.
US charges businessmen accused of helping Russian oligarch to hide yacht ownership
from CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand
The Justice Department announced charges Friday against Russian and British businessmen accused of helping a Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, hide his ownership of a luxury yacht in violation of US sanctions.
Vladislav Osipov, a dual Russian and Swiss national, and Richard Masters, a United Kingdom national, both face charges for conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit offenses against the United States, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and money laundering.
The seizure, conducted by DOJ’s Task force KleptoCapture, is one of the most recent moves by the US to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest allies over his war in Ukraine. It is one of several yacht seizures since the task force was established last March.
“Corporations and executives have a choice: They can participate in the global effort to uproot corruption, sanctions violations and money laundering and enjoy the benefits of prompt and fulsome cooperation; or they can, as Osipov and Masters are alleged to have done, attempt to shield themselves and their clients behind a veil of fraud,” Andrew Adams, the task force’s director said in a statement Friday.
Adams continued, “These men made their decisions, and now face the consequences of a failed attempt to profit through, rather than standing against, a sophisticated, transnational criminal enterprise.”
Masters, who ran a yacht management company in Spain, allegedly used a fake name for the yacht so that it would remain unnoticed by US institutions, allowing for what prosecutors say was “hundreds of thousands of dollars of transactions” for the yacht that otherwise would not have been permitted.
Masters and Osipov, according to the indictment, also helped equip the luxury yacht with new internet, technology, weather forecasting, computing systems, satellite television and teleconferencing software – all from products made in the US.
Osipov, who worked for Vekselberg, allegedly hid Vekselberg’s ownership of the $90 million yacht using shell companies and conspiring to avoid US sanctions.
Vekselberg’s yacht was seized by Spanish law enforcement in April at the request of US officials, based on alleged money laundering, violations of sanctions statutes and bank fraud. Federal agents also searched several homes in the US linked to Vekselberg – who has close ties to Putin -- in September.
According to the Justice Department, Masters was arrested in Spain on Friday and will be extradited to the United States. Osipiv has not yet been arrested.
Senators urge both US and Germany to send tanks after meeting with Zelensky in Ukraine
From CNN's Manu Raju
Sens. Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other government officials in Ukraine Friday, according to Graham’s office.
“All three of us, one Republican and two Democrats, share the same goal – for Ukraine to drive the Russians out of Ukraine. To achieve that goal, the Ukrainian military needs tanks. I am tired of the s*** show surrounding who is going to send tanks and when are they going to send them. Putin is trying to rewrite the map of Europe by force of arms. World order is at stake,” Graham said at a media availability according to a statement.
The meeting comes as Germany failed to reach agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after days of negotiations.
Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.
“To the Germans: Send tanks to Ukraine because they need them. It is in your own national interest that Putin loses in Ukraine. To the Biden Administration: Send American tanks so that others will follow our lead," Graham said, according to the statement.
Biden pledges that Ukraine will get all the help it needs
From CNN's Sam Fossum
US President Joe Biden responded to a shouted question about whether he supports sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, saying that the country will receive "all the help" it needs to fight against Russian troops.
As he was leaving a White House event, Biden said, "Ukraine is going to get all the help they need" when a reporter asked if he supports Poland's goal to send the German-made tanks to Ukraine.
Let's recap: In recent days, German officials have indicated they won’t send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine — or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so — unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv, something the Pentagon has said for months it has no intention of doing given the logistical costs of maintaining them.
“They have us over a barrel,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN on Thursday, adding that the Germans are demanding tanks for tanks, and not budging on considering any other offers the US has made to spur Berlin to send the Leopards.
But on Friday, defense ministers from the US and Germany denied any “linkage” between the US potentially sending the M1 Abrams tanks and Germany sending or allowing the transfer of the Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
Ex-US Navy SEAL killed while fighting in Ukraine
From CNN's Oren Liebermann
A former US Navy SEAL, who deserted the military nearly four years ago, was killed fighting in Ukraine, according to a military spokesperson.
Daniel W. Swift, who was a Special Warfare Operator 1st Class, was killed Wednesday in Ukraine, the Navy said in a statement. Swift deserted the military on March 11, 2019.
The statement did not provide specifics on how Swift found himself involved in the combat.
“We cannot speculate as to why the former Sailor was in Ukraine,” the Navy said.
Swift had his Trident pin removed, a Navy official said, a severe step taken after a Trident Review Board determines a sailor no longer lives up to the requirements of being a Navy SEAL.
The US State Department confirmed the recent death of a US citizen fighting in Ukraine but offered no further details on the circumstances.
“We are in touch with his family and providing all possible consular assistance,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”
Swift joined the Navy in 2005 and completed Navy SEAL training in 2006, according to his service record provided by the Navy. During his time in the military, he earned awards and decorations for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His record also contains an unexplained break in service from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2015. His last assignment was a West Coast Special Warfare Unit, which started in August 2016.
CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.
Polish foreign minister criticizes lack of progress on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Caroline Paterson
The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, says Ukraine is paying with blood for the West’s hesitation on the supply of Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
“Ukrainian blood is shed for real. This is the price of hesitation over Leopard deliveries,” Rau tweeted on Friday. “We need action, now.”
Some background: Introduced in 1979, the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces. In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles spread across Europe, at different levels of readiness.
However, German officials have indicated they won't send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so – unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.
This month, Germany said it would transfer infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv.