Ukraine’s Western allies have for the first time moved towards supplying armoured fighting vehicles to Ukrainian troops but not the heavier tanks Kyiv has requested to help fight Russian forces.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday that his government would send French-made light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to help Ukraine’s defence effort, a French official said after a phone call between the two leaders.
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“This is the first time that Western-made armoured vehicles are being delivered in support of the Ukrainian army,” the official said.
The official did not give any details about the volume or timing of the planned shipments but said talks would continue regarding the potential delivery of other French military vehicle types.
Hours later, United States President Joe Biden said Washington was considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine. Biden was asked during an exchange with reporters while travelling in Kentucky whether providing the tracked armoured fighting vehicle to Ukraine was on the table. He responded “yes”, without offering further comment.
The Bradley is a medium armoured combat vehicle that can serve as a troop carrier. It has tracks rather than wheels but the vehicle is lighter and more agile than a tank. It can carry about 10 personnel or be configured instead to carry additional ammunition or communications equipment.
The US has thousands of Bradleys and they would give Ukraine more firepower on the battlefield and strengthen its ability in trench warfare.
The Pentagon has already provided Ukraine with more than 2,000 combat vehicles, including 477 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles and more than 1,200 Humvees.
The latest donation to Kyiv still falls short of US-made Abrams tanks and German-made Leopard tanks, which Ukraine has repeatedly asked Western allies to supply, particularly as the winter months of the war deepen and the earth becomes frozen, allowing for easier use of the heavy-tracked tanks in the Ukrainian countryside.
In a tweet and his evening video address, Zelenskyy thanked Macron for the announcement of the armoured vehicles and said it showed the need for Ukraine’s other allies to provide heavier weapons to battle Moscow’s army.
Had a long and detailed conversation with President of France @EmmanuelMacron on the current situation. Thanked for the decision to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs to Ukraine, as well as for intensifying work with partners in the same direction. 1/2
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 4, 2023
“This is something that sends a clear signal to all our partners. There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western tanks,” Zelenskyy said.
“We must put an end to the Russian aggression this year,” he said, adding that “modern Western armoured vehicles and Western-type tanks” were the key assets Ukraine needed.
On Twitter, Zelenskyy said of Macron: “Thank you friend! Your leadership bring our victory closer”.
The French-made AMX-10 RC tanks are light and six-wheeled, rather than on tracks. They were designed for reconnaissance missions and have been deployed in France’s most recent overseas military operations in the Sahel region of West Africa and in Afghanistan.
They are “very mobile… perhaps old but high-performance”, a French official said.
An official from the Ukrainian defence ministry’s intelligence section, Andriy Cherniak, said in comments to the RBC-Ukraine media outlet on Wednesday that Kyiv expected no let-up in Russia’s offensive this year despite the heavy human toll.
“According to Ukrainian military intelligence estimates, in the next four-five months the Russian army may lose up to 70,000 people. And the occupying country’s (Russia’s) leadership is ready for such losses,” Cherniak said.
Russian leaders “understand they will lose but they do not plan to end the war”, he added.
In a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent a frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new-generation hypersonic cruise missiles, which can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.