Putin to brush off UK sending tanks to Ukraine

Russian soldier fumes about tanks in leaked call

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Rishi Sunak’s plans to ship British-made Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine could provide the country with “essential” firepower. The Prime Minister and other NATO allies are reportedly considering supplying Volodymyr Zelensky’s Government with enough units to equip a squadron on the war’s frontlines. While they are unlikely to provoke a significant reaction from the Russian side, one expert has said the sought-after vehicles could play a vital part as Ukrainian officials decide the country’s next military steps.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Anthony King, a military expert and Professor of War Studies at Warwick University, said the tanks’ initial introduction likely wouldn’t escalate tensions.

But their later inclusion in a spring counteroffensive could lead to another flashpoint in the Ukraine war.

Professor King said: “I don’t think they’ll have any reaction [from Russia]. I personally don’t think it will be escalatory.

“The Russians full well know the amount of targeting data the US is essentially providing.”

“They’ve had hundreds, possibly thousands of soldiers – including senior generals – killed by various artillery and rocket strikes, all of which was weaponry provided by the west.”

The Professor predicted that Ukraine will mount a new offensive against Russian-controlled tracts of the country.

He said such an offensive is “bound to happen” and added that tanks could help facilitate any bids to take back lost territory.

The question remains, however, as to how far Ukraine can push the offensive “before it becomes escalatory”.

The country may eventually use western-supplied tanks to achieve one of Mr Zelensky’s long-held goals.

The Ukrainian premier has insisted that Crimea – which Russia has occupied since 2014 – is a vital part of the country.

Reintegration would likely provoke Russia, which would see attempts as going beyond the line of resisting an invading force.

Coupled with attempts to realise similar goals in annexed Donbas regions, Ukraine may escalate the crisis.

Professor King said: “If they were going to take the whole of the Donbas back – including the area that was annexed in 2015 – and take back Crimea with the tanks, that could create a moment of international tension.”

While the tanks may not play a pivotal role in any reintegration bids, the “political” involvement of the west could create a new flashpoint, he added.

The UK has not made a final decision on whether to send tanks to the frontline, but Ukraine is eager for armoured units to back its fight.

The decision on sending tanks will likely come later this month alongside other nations.

A group of approximately 50 nations led by the US plan to meet on January 20, where they will make announcements on military support for Ukraine.

Sources have suggested that the UK may provide up to 10 tanks, with France and Poland having already pledged supplies.

Additional participation could prove valuable in encouraging other nations to follow suit.

A Ukrainian source told Sky News: “It will be a good precedent to demonstrate [to] others…to Germany first of all, with their Leopards…and Abrams from the United States.”

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