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Fanning the flames: Germany plans largest arms shipment to Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers training with a Leopard tank, Klietz, Germany, May 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The German military has announced plans for shipping a massive package of weaponry for Ukraine worth 2.7 billion euros in its latest bid to further fuel the US-led war effort against Russia.

Announcing the arms shipment, Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius conceded in a Saturday statement, however that despite his wishes for a quick end to the conflict, “this is not in sight.”

"We all hope for a rapid end to this terrible war by Russia against the Ukrainian people, but unfortunately this is not in sight," Pistorius claimed in the statement after declaring Germany’s largest arms shipment to Kiev since the Ukraine conflict began in February 2022.

Berlin’s arms package for Kiev includes 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, 30 Leopard 1 tanks, 15 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, 200 reconnaissance drones, four additional Iris-T anti-aircraft systems including ammunition, additional artillery ammunition and more than 200 armored combat and logistics vehicles.

German defense ministry spokesman, however, refused to comment on the arms shipment amid reports that Kiev is expected to pressure its allies to get more weapons, jets and long-range ammunition prior to launching a long-advertised counterattack that it now says will take place in the coming weeks or months.

Germany was initially reluctant to ship heavy weapons to Ukraine to help it fight Russia, fearing an escalation of the conflict. Under heavy pressure by the US and other hawkish NATO allies of Kiev, however, Berlin agreed to send its Leopard tanks to Ukraine in January and said it would work with its allies to send more.

On Thursday, meanwhile, Britain also announced that it will provide long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine for the first time, becoming the first European country to take the lead in giving Kiev long-range weapons.

British Defense Secretary Wallace said London was sending Shadow Storm missiles to Ukraine so they could be used domestically, supposedly meaning he had received assurances from Kiev that they would not be used to strike targets inside Russia.

Accusing Moscow of deliberately targeting civilians, Wallace claimed that Russia's actions had led to sending such systems to Ukraine.

The missiles "are now going into, or are in, the country itself," he added.

The Kremlin had previously warned London that if it gives Ukraine such missiles, it should expect “an adequate response from our army.”

Previously, the Biden administration announced that it does not intend to send long-range weapons to Ukraine, because it is afraid that the Zelensky government will use these weapons to attack Russian territory.

While the West has started sending massive amounts of new packages of long-range weaponry to Ukraine, Zelensky announced on Thursday that more time is needed for a counterattack, widely anticipated and publicized by Western officials and News outlets.

Ukraine was previously expected to launch a counteroffensive after six months of keeping its forces on the defensive, but Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that he still needed more time to plan a counter-offensive.

Speaking at his headquarters in Kiev, Zelensky described the combat brigades -- some of which were trained by member countries of the US-led NATO military alliance -- and said the military still needed "some things," including armored vehicles that were "arriving in batches."

"With [what we already have] we can go forward, and, I think, be successful," he said. "But we'd lose a lot of people. I think that's unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time."

Meanwhile, Russian forces have strengthened their defenses along the frontline, which runs 145 kilometers from the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Ukrainian officials have tried to dampen expectations of a breakthrough, both publicly and privately. Earlier this month, a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the country's leaders "realized they had to succeed" but that the attack should not be seen as a "silver bullet" in the war, now in its 15th month.

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