Germany and the United States will send armored vehicles to Ukraine, the leaders of the two countries said in a joint statement.
The announcement came after a phone call between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Joe Biden on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for the vehicles to significantly increase his military’s firepower in the ongoing war with Russia.
The US would provide Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, while Germany would supply Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the two nations said.
Germany would also send a Patriot missile system, following Washington’s donation last month, to help repel Russian missile and drone attacks.
Scholz and Biden added they would welcome allies’ “additional donations of air defense systems and combat vehicles.”
Germany did not specify how many Marder vehicles would be supplied, but Der Spiegel reported it could be as many as 40.
Two US officials said the US weapons package for Ukraine would include about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Also included would be Humvees and a large number of missiles and other ammunition.
So far, Germany has agreed to supply Ukraine with “Gepard” anti-aircraft tanks but not the Marder infantry fighting vehicles Kyiv has repeatedly asked for.
The West’s hesitation in sending advanced armaments has revolved around fears of provoking Russia.
Earlier France announced that it would be sending “light tanks.”
Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Thursday, January 5:
Japan PM Kishida invited to visit Ukraine: spokesperson
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been invited to visit Ukraine, according to a top government spokesperson.
The head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, gave the invitation to Japan’s ambassador to Kyiv on Wednesday, Reuters reported Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno as saying on Friday at a regular press briefing.
“Japan stands with the citizens of Ukraine … and takes appropriate steps as this year’s G7 chair,” Matsuno said, referring to the Group of Seven (G7) nations.
Kishida is scheduled to embark on a diplomatic tour of G7 member nations, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, next week before Japan hosts the annual G7 summit in Hiroshima in May.
Ukraine spurns Putin’s Christmas truce
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a unilateral 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine for Orthodox Christmas.
Ukraine and its allies quickly dismissed it.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the announcement “a cover” for Russian troops to block Ukrainian advances.
In comments directed at Russia, Zelenskyy said the war “will end either when your soldiers leave or we throw them out.”
Putin’s announcement came after calls for a ceasefire from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill.
The ceasefire would start at 12:00 on January 6 and continue until 24:00 on January 7.
Ukraine has rejected the move, saying that Russia must leave occupied territories before a truce can occur.
Ukraine’s economic output sees sharp fall in 2022
The Ukrainian economy shrank by 30.4% last year according to preliminary data based on the measure of its gross domestic product.
Ukrainian Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said the fall in GDP was the greatest since the fall of the Soviet Union, although not quite as bad as had been expected.
“In 2022, the Ukrainian economy suffered its largest losses and damages in the entire history of independence, inflicted on it by the Russian Federation,” Svyrydenko, said
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in December that the economy could shrink by up to 50%. Ukraine has an export-led economy that has been ravaged both by the war directly and by an early embargo by Russian ships in the Black Sea.
Russia threatens to confiscate German assets
The head of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin has warned that Russia could confiscate German-owned properties if Germany uses Russian-owned properties in Germany to fund Ukraine.
“The moment this decision is taken, we will have the right to similar actions with respect to the property of Germany and other states,” Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel.
The comment follows and ongoing discussion about the possibility of selling off properties — often belonging to Russian billionaires — in Europe to help rebuild Ukraine.
Assets belonging to Western companies that pulled out of Russia following the invasion have been effectively frozen with the companies banned from selling them off.
Erdogan advises Putin to call a “unilateral” cease-fire
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to declare a cease-fire with Ukraine during a phone call on Thursday.
“President Erdogan said that calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution,” Erdogan’s office quoted him as saying during the call.
The Turkish president is set to talk with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later on Thursday.
Erdogan has been using his good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv to carve out a role for Turkey as an impartial mediator, despite it being a member of the NATO alliance.
The Kremlin later released its own statement saying “Vladimir Putin has once again stressed Russia’s willingness for a serious dialogue — on the condition that the government in Kyiv fulfills the demands that Russia has made clear several times, and while taking into account the new territorial reality .”
Head of Russia’s Orthodox Church calls for Christmas cease-fire
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies and a staunch supporter of the invasion of Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has called for a cease-fire during Orthodox Christmas on January 6.
“I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and of all Russia, appeal to all parties involved in the internal conflict with a call to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12:00 on January 6 to 24:00 on January 7 so that the faithful can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ,” he said.
Ukraine is also a majority Orthodox country, but the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke away from its Russian counterpart in 2018.
Kirill has previously said that Russian soldiers who died fighting in Ukraine will be absolved of their sins.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhailo Podolyak rejected Kirill’s call for a cease-fire as a “cynical trap and an element of propaganda” in a message on Twitter.
Russian ship carrying hypersonic missile sets sail
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a newly built ship, armed with the latest Zircon hypersonic missile, off on a show-of-force tour of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The 130-meter (427-feet) long Admiral Gorshkov frigate is manned by a 200-strong crew. It is part of a renewal of Russia’s aging Soviet-era fleet.
The Zircon missile has undergone a series of tests in recent years, which Moscow has declared successful. The Kremlin has claimed that it can break through any anti-missile defense by flying nine times faster than the speed of sound and with a range of over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
ab/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)