January 25, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT) January 26, 2023
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9:09 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Biden will give remarks on Ukraine today

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden will give remarks on support for Ukraine at 12 p.m. ET, according to the White House.

The US is finalizing plans to send approximately 30 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, two US officials familiar with the deliberations told CNN.

9:29 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Here's why sending Ukraine tanks represents a fierce new step by the West

Analysis from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

A Leopard 2 A7V main battle tank from Bundeswehr training battalion 93 drives during a combat reconnaissance exercise at a training area in Lower Saxony, Munster, Germany on March 6.
A Leopard 2 A7V main battle tank from Bundeswehr training battalion 93 drives during a combat reconnaissance exercise at a training area in Lower Saxony, Munster, Germany on March 6. (Photo by Philipp Schulze/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany deciding to send Leopard 2 tanks and the US finalizing plans on sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine are momentous decisions, partly because these are not defensive weapons. They are intended to hit Russia’s troops hard in a ground offensive. They are unequivocally about Ukraine retaking territory. This is new, and fierce, and it portrays a NATO unafraid.

This latest burst of Western help says two things:

These nations are not concerned about breaching Russian “red lines”: The long-held belief is crumbling that some elements of NATO assistance to Ukraine could risk provoking a nuclear power too far.

These NATO members are less concerned about being attacked by Russia itself in the imminent future: They are handing over weapons they would urgently need in the event of such a conflict. The Dutch decision to send all their Cesar artillery; the Norwegian decision to send a large proportion of their Leopards; both are testament to this. These NATO members think the decisive conflict with Russia will be in Ukraine, with Ukraine. And that might suggest they believe Moscow will not win.

Western inventories can be rebuilt or replenished, but it takes time – decades maybe. And NATO members are pledging equipment at such a pace that the last announcement is not in play before the next one comes.

And this will be felt within the walls of the Kremlin. The Russian military is struggling to fashion a strategic plan around its constantly changing leadership, and to convert into substantial gains the brutal use of manpower as an endless and expendable resource. For those around Russian President Vladimir Putin, the colossus of NATO aid is inescapable and surely weighing into how enduring their support for Putin is. This is not going away.

Read the full analysis here.

8:49 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

How Germany's tanks decision could affect an anticipated renewed Russian spring offensive

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Germany has announced it will provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv’s troops in a major sign of support that is expected to be matched by the United States.

The decision followed weeks of Western pressure, ending a period of deliberation in Berlin that has frustrated its allies and caused exasperation in Kyiv.

Why this matters: Wednesday’s announcement means Ukraine will soon be in possession of a modern tank that would hugely boost its arsenal ahead of renewed ground fighting anticipated in the spring.

Ukraine is bracing for a Russian offensive in the coming weeks, aimed at completing the capture of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – the primary goal set by President Vladimir Putin for what he euphemistically calls his “special military operation.”

The Ukrainian military’s most senior officer, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhniy, said in December that Ukraine expected a Russian offensive any time between the end of January and March.

Previous military aid, like the American HIMARS rocket system, has been vital in helping Ukraine disrupt Russian advances and make a series of successful counter-offensives in recent months.

Kyiv will hope that Western tanks will have a similar impact on the slow, grinding ground war in Ukraine’s east.

Tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon provided to Ukraine so far, a heavily armed and armored system designed to meet the enemy head on instead of firing from a distance. If used properly with the necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to dig defensive lines.

The US has begun supplying refurbished Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but modern Western tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability to target enemy positions. Ukrainian officials say they need several hundred main battle tanks – not only to defend their present positions but also to take the fight to the enemy in the coming months.

“Of course, we need a large number of Western tanks. They are much better than the Soviet models and can help us advance,” Lt. Gen. Serhiy Naiev told CNN.

Read more here.

8:34 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Netherlands "prepared" to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, despite not owning any

From CNN's Mick Krever

Despite not currently owning any German-made Leopard 2 tanks, the Netherlands said Wednesday it is prepared to purchase tanks it currently leases in order to send them to Ukraine. 

“If it helps for the Netherlands to also participate, then we are prepared to do so,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told CNN affiliate RTL News.

The Netherlands does not own any battle tanks, having sold all of its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Germany in 2018 and 2021, according to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

But the Netherlands does lease 18 Leopard 2A6 battle tanks from Germany. Rutte has suggested that the Netherlands could purchase these tanks outright, and then send them to Ukraine.

“Those conversations are ongoing,” Rutte said. “It could also be that people say, well, it suits us better if you use those tanks in a different manner. So that conversation is taking place.”

He said that while a decision would still have to be taken, “we have said to the Germans that we are prepared to seriously consider it.”

8:48 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Zelensky welcomes German decision to send battle tanks

From CNN's Jo Shelley

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is “sincerely grateful” to Germany for agreeing to supply his government with its sought-after Leopard 2 battle tanks. 

Zelensky said in a tweet that he had spoken to Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the telephone.

During their phone call, Scholz told Zelensky that Germany will “further strengthen military support for Ukraine in close coordination with European and international partners,” according to a German government press office readout.

“President Zelensky thanked the Federal Chancellor for the decision to make 'Leopard 2' battle tanks available to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and to issue corresponding transfer licences to partner countries wishing to supply such tanks from their stocks to Ukraine,” it said. 

8:08 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

UK PM welcomes tank deliveries to Ukraine as "right decision" following Germany’s Leopard 2 announcement

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel in London

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the "right decision" by NATO allies to send battle tanks to Ukraine, following Germany's announcement that it will provide Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks. 

"The right decision by NATO Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine," tweeted Sunak. "Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower. Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace."

Sunak was referring to British Challenger 2 tanks. On Jan. 14, the UK government announced that it would send 12 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of efforts to "intensify" support for the Ukrainian defense against Russia.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday that he was "delighted" by Germany joining the UK, France and Poland in sending Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, adding that it’s time for Russia to realize that Kyiv’s allies are “increasingly determined to help Ukraine resist” Moscow’s “barbaric and illegal invasion.” 

8:25 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

US-German relations are better than they have been for a long time, Chancellor Scholz says

From CNNs Claudia Otto in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on January 25.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, on January 25. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Germany's announcement that it will send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine comes after a diplomatic logjam with the United States, where German officials had openly stated that they would only send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the US sent the M-1 Abrams tanks.

So as the German announcement comes, the US is also finalizing plans to send approximately 30 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, two US officials familiar with the deliberations told CNN.

With this backdrop, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the German parliament that Berlin's relations with the US were better than they had been for a long time.

"I can tell you that the relationship between Germany and the US is on a better level than it has been for a long time. I find great agreement with the American president, who I think is a very capable, very oriented, very goal-oriented politician, especially in terms of international politics and in terms of supporting the transatlantic relationship and emphasizing good cooperation with Germany," he said Wednesday. “This is a president who is a really good partner."

CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood and Oren Lieberman contributed to this reporting.

8:07 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Spain is open to sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, defense minister says

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid 

Spain is willing to provide Ukraine with its Leopard tanks, but in coordination with the allies, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said according to Spain’s state news agency EFE.

Robles however added it was not immediately possible to determine how many of Spain’s Leopard 2 tanks might be sent to Ukraine, the news agency reported Wednesday. 

The minister also said that Spain would provide training to operate the modern battle tanks. 

Robles on Wednesday held a meeting with Spain’s top military officers from the nation’s joint command, the defense ministry said. 

Some context: Thirteen European countries, including Poland and Finland, are in possession of modern German Leopard 2 tanks, which were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

Many of them have agreed to re-export some tanks to Kyiv, but require Germany’s permission. Berlin has said it will allow other countries to export the battle tank.

CNN's Rob Picheta contributed to this post.

7:50 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Germany's approval of Leopard 2 deliveries brings conflict "to a new level," says Russian ambassador to Berlin

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergei Nechaev, center, attends an event hosted by the Russian Embassy to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany on May 9, 2022 in Berlin, Germany.
Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergei Nechaev, center, attends an event hosted by the Russian Embassy to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany on May 9, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The decision by the German government to approve deliveries of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is "extremely dangerous" and takes the conflict "to a new level of confrontation," Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergei Nechaev said in a statement Wednesday.

"This extremely dangerous decision brings the conflict to a new level of confrontation and runs counter to German politicians' statements about FRG's [Federal Republic of Germany] reluctance to be involved in such," Nechaev said. 

"Unfortunately, this happens over and over again. Yet again, we can see that just like its closest partners, Germany is not interested in a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis, has its heart set on its permanent escalation and the unlimited pumping of the Kyiv regime with more and more deadly weapons. 'Red lines' are a thing of the past," he added. 

Nechaev then brought up World War II, claiming that Germany "has forgotten the difficult path of postwar reconciliation between Russians and Germans," Nechaev said. 

"Battle tanks marked with the German cross will again be sent to 'the Eastern front,' which inevitably will lead to the death of not only Russian soldiers, but the civilian population, too," he said. 

Nechaev said that Berlin's decision comes as the 80th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad is observed.

The decision "destroys any remaining mutual trust, causes irreparable damage to Russian-German relations which are already in a pitiful state, and casts doubt on the possibility of their normalization in the near future," he said.