(Ramstein Air Base) The Ukrainian counter-offensive is “progressing steadily” against Russian troops and will soon be supported by the arrival on the ground of American Abrams tanks, the United States assured Tuesday during a meeting with its allies in Germany.
This 15e meeting to coordinate military aid to Ukraine, at the American base at Ramstein (south), brought together around fifty countries in the presence of the new Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Roustem Oumerov, whose country is demanding more resources to repel the Russian invasion.
According to American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, host of the meeting, the Ukrainian counter-offensive underway since the beginning of June “continues to progress steadily”.
Mr. Austin also announced that American tanks “will soon enter Ukraine.”
According to a senior American military official, the first devices will arrive in the coming days, the rest in the coming weeks.
“And this will add a formidable armored force” to the battlefield, assured Mr. Austin, who will receive Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Penetrate the Russian defense
These tanks will notably be equipped with 120 mm depleted uranium munitions supplied by the United States, according to an announcement made in September. These munitions can pierce armor but are controversial due to the toxic risks for the military and the population.
In January, Washington promised to send a total of 31 Abrams, heavy tanks which will join the Challengers 2 delivered by London and the German-made Leopard 2.
The Ukrainians previously only had Soviet-designed machines.
Since the start of their counter-offensive about three months ago, Kyiv’s troops “have penetrated several layers” of the Russian defense, American Chief of Staff General Mark Milley observed in Ramstein.
“This is a series of defensive belts that the Russians have set up with complex obstacles, minefields, dragons’ teeth, barbed wire, strongholds, etc. “, he described.
The Ukrainians are “advancing very slowly” through these layers “preserving their combat power,” he added.
Ukrainian officials, however, insist on the urgency of obtaining more means to strike Russian troops beyond the front line and control the airspace.
They are particularly awaiting the American-designed F-16 fighters promised by several countries, even if this equipment poses a training challenge and will not be usable for several months for the first units.
The Ukrainians are also urging Germany and the United States to deliver long-range cruise missiles.
The question has not yet been resolved, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius admitted on Monday, stressing that a “multiple political, legal, military and technical aspects” had to be resolved first.
Among the outstanding questions is whether this type of weapon can be used without the support of Bundeswehr soldiers. Berlin also fears that the missiles could reach Russian territory, leading to an escalation of the conflict.
“We are focused on Ukraine’s most urgent needs, those of an air defense capability,” stressed the American secretary when asked about the delivery of missiles.
Ukraine is targeted almost daily by Russian drones.
Russian strikes in Ukraine caused the deaths of six civilians in Kupiansk (east), two others in Kherson (south) and one in Lviv (west) on Tuesday, Ukrainian authorities announced.
The attack on Lviv, almost 1,000 km from the front, destroyed three warehouses and “seven drones were shot down” on the territory of the region.
In the Mykolaiv region (south), ten Shahed drones were shot down during the night by air defenses.
On the eve of the meeting, Germany announced a new aid package of 400 million euros, including munitions.
“I have urged our partners to donate whatever air defense munitions they can as Ukraine heads into another winter of war,” Austin insisted.
In total, he said, the United States and its allies have committed more than $76 billion in direct aid to Ukraine’s defense since the Russian invasion began.