News UK sends heavy main battle tanks to Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine war news

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to supply Ukraine with heavy tanks and artillery systems drew an immediate rebuke from the Russian embassy in London.

Sunak pledged to send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, according to a statement from his office.

The move made Britain the first western country to supply the heavy tanks that Kyiv had been demanding.

According to the transcript of the call with Zelenskiy, Sunak said the tanks showed that the UK “intends to strengthen its support for Ukraine”.

The Ukrainian leader praised Britain’s military support on Twitter, saying “these decisions will not only strengthen our strength on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners”.

Sunak’s office said the British prime minister believed “a prolonged static war is only in Russia’s interest”.

“UK defense and security officials believe a window has opened for Russia to fall behind due to resupply problems and low morale,” the statement said. “The prime minister therefore encourages allies to deploy the support they plan to provide in 2023 as soon as possible to have maximum impact.”

A squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, battle tanks designed to attack other tanks, will enter Ukraine in the coming weeks. It said there were expected to be around 30 AS90s, large self-propelled guns operated by five gunners.

Russia responded to Britain’s pledge, warning it would only “exacerbate” the conflict.

The Russian embassy in London said: “The deployment of tanks to the conflict zone, far from ending hostilities, will only intensify combat operations and cause more casualties, including civilian casualties.”

For months, Ukraine has been requesting heavier tanks, including the American Abrams and the German Leopard 2. However, some Western leaders have been treading carefully.

Poland and the Czech Republic have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to the Ukrainian army.

While Poland has also expressed its willingness to provide Leopard tanks, President Andrzej Duda stressed that such a move would only be possible as part of a larger international coalition to provide tank aid to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, France said it would send AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles, known in France as “light tanks,” to Ukraine. The U.S. and Germany announced the same week that they would send Bradley fighting vehicles and Weasel armored personnel carriers, respectively, for the first time.

Britain’s decision to supply the tanks came as Russian forces fired missiles at the Ukrainian capital and other cities across the country on Saturday, hitting critical infrastructure.

In the southeastern city of Dnipro, a Russian missile attack destroyed part of an apartment building, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 64, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

Among the wounded were seven children, the youngest was just three years old, and “the fate of the 26 remains unknown,” he added.

Infrastructure in areas west of Lviv and northeast of Kharkiv were also hit. The capital Kyiv was also targeted.

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