Ukraine desperate for Western tanks
Western countries have pledged dozens of tanks to Ukraine, including the highly advanced Abrams model from the U.S. and the Leopard 2 from Germany. Though the timing and pace of the tanks’ arrival make it difficult to predict their impact, the Ukrainians know they’ve already put a major dent on Russia’s own inventory.
In barely a year of hostilities in Ukraine, Russia’s fleet of modern tanks is down to about 50% of its amount before the invasion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In total, Russia’s stockpile of approximately 2,200 tanks still far outnumbers Ukraine’s 1,000, a figure that will grow with the Western influx.
The institute points out that the losses and slow replenishment have forced the Kremlin to pull older equipment out of storage, hardly the ideal scenario for the Russian offensive expected in the coming weeks.
“The need to re-equip during war raises questions over the direction and durability of Russia’s state armaments program and its future military modernization ambitions,” the British think thank said.
►The Slovakian parliament recognized the Russian regime as terrorist and designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
►Ukraine announced a prisoner swap with Russia that brought home 100 soldiers and one civilian. Almost all fought in the failed struggle to defend the Donetsk province city of Mariupol.
►Russian University student Olesya Krivtsova faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of justifying terrorism and discrediting the Russian armed forces. She was arrested for anti-war posts on social media, the BBC reports.
SUPPORT FADING FOR WEAPONS DEALS:Support for providing weapons to Ukraine fading in US; 97% of Russian army in Ukraine: Updates
140,000 Russians have died during ‘special military operation’
In recent weeks the Russians have made modest gains on the battlefield, but Western experts say they have come at a high cost.
The Russian death toll in what President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation” has reached 140,460 since the beginning of the full-scale invasion a year ago, the General Staff of Ukraine’s military estimated Thursday.
Ukrainian data shows more than 800 Russian soldiers a day have died in February, a figure Britain’s Ministry of Defense called “likely accurate.”
Western tanks will make a difference, but will they be ‘a day late’?
High-tech Western tanks pledged to Ukraine’s military will provide better electronics, maneuverability, protection and an overall military advantage over the T-72 and T-80 tanks that dominate the Russian military, experts say.
But will they be enough?
“Surpassing any Russian tank in terms of firepower, sighting and navigation system … we get a tool that allows, in one operation, to defeat all the assault and shock units that the Russians have in the south,” Viktor Kivliuk, a former Ukrainian officer and member of the Ukrainian think tank Center for Defense Strategies, told the Kyiv Independent.
But the Independent said those modern tanks Ukraine so desperately needs will arrive in a “gradual, piecemeal manner” that will make it difficult to take full advantage of the technology.
“We’re keeping Ukraine on a starvation diet for the aid that is necessary for it to win,” said George Barros, of the Institute for the Study of War. “It’s a day late and a weapon short.”
EU lawmakers lobby for support to send fighter jets to Ukraine
The European Parliament urged “serious consideration” be given to delivering fighter jets, helicopters, missile systems and a substantial increase in munitions to Ukraine. The ministers strongly condemned Moscow’s aggression and reiterated “unwavering solidarity with the people and leadership of Ukraine.”
The Russian invasion and brutal pounding of Ukraine cities “necessitates bold, brave and comprehensive political, security and financial decisions by the EU,” the parliament said in a statement. The U.S. and Britain have thus far declined to provide the fighter jets that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has heavily lobbied for.
The resolution calls on EU member states to adopt their 10th sanctions package against Russia and its allies by the end of February and to substantially broaden its scope. It also urges the EU, the member states and their allies to make the sanctions already in place more effective and to take urgent steps to block any attempt to circumvent the restrictions.
Israeli foreign minister visits Kyiv
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen arrived in Kyiv to visit the suburb of Bucha, where Russian forces slaughtered more than 450 civilians last year, and Babyn Yar, the ravine where Nazis and their local collaborators murdered more than 30,000 Jews in September 1941. Cohen also was expected to meet with Zelenskyy.
Ukraine and its allies have been pressing Israel for military support, but Israeli leadership has been reticent about provoking Russia. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested Israel provided military support by attacking Iranian weapons production sites. Airstrikes attributed to Israel last month appeared to target Iran’s drone program. Iran sells attack drones to Russia.
Russia pounds Ukraine with missile, drone attacks
Air raid alerts rang out across Ukraine on Thursday as Russian drones and missiles hammered targets mostly in the north and west of the country, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Telegram. Russian attacks usually target the south and east, where the bulk of the fighting is centered.
The Ukraine air force said half of the 32 missiles were intercepted. A woman was killed and at least seven people were wounded in the attacks, authorities said. Ukrenergo, operator of Ukraine’s battered, state-owned energy grid, said the attacks would not lead to blackouts.
Russia’s new tactics intended to ‘overload’ Ukraine’s air defenses
Thursday’s attack is the latest indication Russia is taking a new approach, both out of necessity and for strategic reasons.
Ukrainian officials said a shortage of missiles has prompted the Kremlin to become more discerning and to employ diversionary tactics, such deploying decoy missiles without explosive warheads and air balloons with reflectors. Such tools could mislead or overwhelm air defenses at a low cost.
“They want to overload our anti-aircraft system to get an extra chance to hit infrastructure facilities,” presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press, adding that Ukraine’s defenses are adapting to the change.
Podolyak reiterated Ukraine’s need for more weaponry that may allow it to hit Russian troops deeper behind the front lines and bring a quicker end to the conflict against a much larger enemy that’s better suited for a long war of attrition.
“A protracted war is the slow death of Ukraine,” he said. “Russia has enough time. Why? They will live in poverty. They always live like this. They don’t need comfort. They can live in a camp. They can live in isolation.”
Norway to become one of Ukraine’s biggest donors
Norway announced a five-year, $7.4 billion support package for Ukraine, fending off claims of profiteering from inflated energy prices fueled by the war. In a video address, Zelenskyy thanked Norway’s 169-seat parliament.
“You are creating a precedent for long-term financial support for a state that’s defending its independence,” Zelenskyy said.
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said half the money would fund more weapons and training for the Ukrainian military and half would fund “civilian support.”
Norway, an oil-and-gas-rich nation of just 5.5 million people, has made billions in additional revenue over the past year as the conflict in Ukraine boosted gas prices. Støre has rejected suggestions put forward by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and others that Oslo has taken advantage of the war for its own financial gain.
Contributing: The Associated Press