UK has ‘ambition’ to send tanks to Ukraine, PM Sunak tells Zelenskiy

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LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined Britain’s ambition to send some of its main battle tanks to Ukraine along with additional artillery support during a phone call on Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Sunak’s office said.

“They agreed on the need to seize on this moment with an acceleration of global military and diplomatic support to Ukraine,” a spokesperson for Sunak said.

“The prime minister outlined the UK’s ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems.”

There have been a number of media reports suggesting that Britain was in discussions with Ukraine to deliver the Challengers, the British Army’s main battle tank, to help the country fight invading Russian forces.

However, the British government has repeatedly said no final decision had been taken.

“The prime minister and President Zelenskiy welcomed other international commitments in this vein, including Poland’s offer to provide a company of Leopard tanks,” Sunak’s spokesperson said.

“The prime minister stressed that he and the whole UK government would be working intensively with international partners to deliver rapidly the kind of support which will allow Ukraine to press their advantage, win this war and secure a lasting peace.”

In Other Developments

* A Russian missile attack hit critical infrastructure in Kyiv on Saturday morning and explosions rang out in the Dniprovskiy district of the Ukrainian capital, a senior presidential official and other officials said.

BATTLE FOR SOLEDAR

* Russia said on Friday its forces had taken control of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, in what would be a rare success for Moscow after months of battlefield reverses, but Kyiv said its troops were still fighting in the town.

* President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces continued to fight in Soledar, a small salt-mining town, and other cities in the Donetsk region.

* Reuters could not verify the accounts.

ARMS

* Finland joined Poland in saying it could send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of a Western coalition apparently being put together to supply them.

* France hopes to deliver “AMX 10-RC” light combat tanks to Ukraine in two months, said armed forces minister Sebastien Lecornu.

* Belarus may enter the conflict, a Russian foreign ministry official said. Russia used Belarus as a springboard to invade Ukraine in February, but the border area is now heavily waterlogged, making an imminent attack from there unlikely.

DIPLOMACY, ECONOMY

* Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after meeting U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington on Friday, stressed the importance of standing up to Russia’s invasion, saying that if a unilateral change to the status quo went unchallenged, the same would happen elsewhere, including in Asia – an apparent reference to China’s vow to reunite with self-ruled Taiwan, by force if necessary.

* Russia is becoming too dependent on oil revenues to support its budget as it ramps up military spending, economists said, warning that the government may have to raise taxes if crude prices fail to meet expectations this year.

* A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested confiscating property and assets of Russians who discredit the armed forces and oppose the war in Ukraine.

* At least four Chinese-owned supertankers are shipping Russian Urals crude to China, according to trading sources and tracking data, as Moscow seeks vessels for exports after a G7 oil price cap restricted the use of Western cargo services and insurance.

Photo: British soldiers with the Queen’s Royal Hussars on  a Challenger II main battle tank. (U.S. Army photo by Gertrud Zach)

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