By Kathleen Magramo, Amy Woodyatt, Leinz Vales, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN
Updated 8:41 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023
12:09 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023
US defense secretary denies any link between US and German tanks in possible deal for Ukraine
From CNNs Michael Conte
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied there was any “linkage” between the US potentially sending M1 Abrams tanks and Germany sending or allowing the transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
“I think you heard the German minister of defense say earlier today that there’s no linkage between providing M1’s [Abrams] and providing Leopards, and I think he was pretty clear about that,” Austin said at a press conference after the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein, Germany. “So this notion of unlocking, you know, in my mind, it’s not an issue.”
Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on Friday denied any tie between the two countries' tanks. When asked about the issue during an interview with German public broadcaster ARD Thursday, Pistorius said he was “not aware of such an arrangement.”
11:56 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Ukrainian presidential official expresses confidence that Ukraine will receive more military aid
From Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and CNN’s Vasco Cotovio
The head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, is bullish that his country will receive all the military aid it has not yet gotten.
“We are getting stronger,” Yermak wrote in a Telegram post on Friday. “And we will get everything we have not yet received.”
Yermak’s remarks come after Germany's defense minister said there has been no decision about green-lighting German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to be sent to Ukraine during a meeting of Western allies at Ramstein Air Base.
Other support packages were agreed to in the days leading up to and during the meeting.
11:58 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Polish defense minister optimistic on Leopard tanks deliveries to Ukraine despite no decision Friday
From CNN's Antonia Mortensen and Radina Gigova
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said Friday he remains optimistic that allies will reach an agreement on deliveries of Leopard tanks to Ukraine even though a decision still hasn't been made.
"I see hope, because the ministers of 15 countries met today on the sidelines of today's conference and talked about it," Blaszczak told reporters at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
"I share the Ukrainian point of view ... hence, our Polish response to deliver equipment to Ukraine and train Ukrainian soldiers at the brigade level before the end of March," he said.
"I am convinced that building this coalition will be successful, just as the issue of transferring Patriot systems to Ukraine was successful," Blaszczak said, adding a discussion on this subject was also raised by Poland after the incident in the village of Przewodów, near the Ukrainian border, where a missile caused an explosion and killed two civilians.
When asked whether Poland would hand over the German-made Leopard tanks it possesses — even if Berlin did not agree — he said he would raise this issue during a meeting with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius soon.
"Today's meeting was a very good conversation," adding that there were speeches from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and high-level US military leadders.
"We talked about the threat of Russia's imperial activities in Europe and that we can expect another attack on Ukraine. Therefore, Kyiv should be supported so that Ukraine can resist this aggression," he said.
During his speech at the meeting in Germany, Blaszczak said he announced Poland will provide Ukraine with additional infantry fighting vehicles and T-72 tanks.
11:41 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Germany is doing enough to show real leadership in Europe, US defense secretary says
When asked if Germany is doing enough to show real leadership in Europe in terms of its support of Ukraine, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, "yes, but we can all do more," including, the United States.
"Germany has contributed a lot to this campaign," he said, pointing to Germany's provision of air defense capabilities and training for soldiers.
"They have a big oar in the water like the rest of the contact group does, and they are working hand in hand with the rest of our colleagues," Austin added.
"I truly believe they will continue to be a reliable ally going forward," he told reporters Friday.
Austin's comments come as Germany faces pressure to send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine, or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so.
12:05 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023
US defense secretary: Germany has "not made a decision" on sending tanks to Ukraine
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the German position that there has been no decision made on sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
"You may have heard the German minister of defense say earlier that they've not made a decision on the provision of Leopard tanks," he said in response to a reporter's question.
"We're really focused on — is making sure that Ukraine has the capability that it needs to be successful right now. So we have a window of opportunity here between now and the spring ... whenever they commence their operation, their counteroffensive. And that's not a long time. We have to pull together the right capabilities," he continued.
Austin referred back to his statements about Western allies sending defense weapons to Ukraine, as well as the United Kingdom's plans to provide battle tanks.
"Poland for example is continuing to offer tanks and will provide tanks, and other countries will offer some tank capability as well. I don't have any announcements to make on [M1 Abrams tanks], and you heard the German minister of defense say that they've not made a decision on Leopards," he said.
Some background: German and US officials appear to be stuck in a deadlock over whether to send tanks following numerous appeals from Kyiv’s leadership. CNN has reported that 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.
11:26 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Russian foreign ministry warns of escalation in Ukraine if the West increases its weapons supply
From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London
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 the statement published on Friday as NATO partners met in Germany to discuss more aid for Ukraine.
“We regard all this as an open provocative incitement by the West and an increase in the stakes in the conflict, which will inevitably lead to an increase in casualties and a dangerous escalation,” said Maria Zakharova, a ministry spokesperson, in the statement.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that any new NATO deliveries of heavy weapons to Kyiv "will not change anything" in regards to Russia achieving its goals in Ukraine.
11:23 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Ukrainian leaders described what soldiers and citizens are facing, US defense secretary says after key meeting
Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Yevhen Moisiuk gave a presentation at the high stakes meeting of theUkraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein air base on Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a news conference.
Speaking to reporters after concluding the meeting, Austin said, the presentation gave a first-hand account of "what Ukraine's military and citizens are facing" as Russia's war in the country continues.
"They all represent the exceptional bravery of the Ukraine army, and most importantly, the Ukrainian people," top US Gen. Mark Milley said at the conference.
"Eventually, President Putin, Russia, will realize the full extent of their strategic miscalculation. But until Putin ends this war — his war of choice — the nations of this contact group will continue to support the defense of Ukraine in order to uphold the rules-based international order," Milley added.
10:40 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Turkey's Erdogan repeats offer to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv during a call with Zelensky
From CNN's Hande Atay Alam
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated the offer of mediating between Moscow and Kyiv during a phone call with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, according to the Turkish Presidency's Directorate of Communications statement.
The developments in the Russia-Ukraine war were discussed during the call, the statement said.
President Erdogan also expressed his condolences for the helicopter crash that took place in Ukraine on Wednesday.
A helicopter carrying the leadership team of Ukraine’s interior ministry crashed near a kindergarten and residential block in the Kyiv region on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people, including all nine people on board.
President Erdogan reiterated that they are ready to make a strong diplomatic contribution to the establishment of a lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine and to take on the role of facilitator and mediator.
In a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan told him that calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral declaration of ceasefire and a vision of “a fair solution.”
9:49 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
Germany "is ready to move quickly" if allies reach consensus on tanks for Ukraine, defense minister says
From CNN's Claudia Otto in Berlin and Niamh Kennedy in London
Germany is "ready to move quickly" if allies reach a consensus on sending tanks to Ukraine, Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistoriussaid Friday.
"As far as the delivery of the Leopard is concerned, there is no unanimous opinion," Pistorius told reporters on the sidelines of a high stakes defense meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
He rebuffed claims Germany has been "standing in the way" of a "united coalition" of countries in favor of sending tanks to Ukraine.
"There are good reasons for the delivery and there are good reasons against it. And given the overall situation of a war that has been going on for almost one year now, all the pros and cons have to be weighed very carefully, and that assessment is explicitly shared by many allies," he added.
Pistorius said he had instructed officials to carry out an audit of Germany's stocks of Leopard 2 tanks so the country can "move quickly" in the event of a "positive decision."
The Defense Minister added that the issue of export authorizations was not discussed during Friday's meetings.
Poland has been waiting on the go-ahead to send German-made tanks to Ukraine. On Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that if Poland does not get the green light from Germany, it will "do the right thing ourselves."