The United States plans to send Ukraine 90 Stryker armored combat vehicles as part of a roughly $2.5 billion shipment of arms and equipment that is expected to be announced at a meeting of allies in Germany on Friday, the Defense Department said on Thursday.
The decision to send Strykers for the first time, and possibly deliver them within weeks, comes just days after Britain committed to sending Ukraine 14 Challenger battle tanks and the United States, France and Germany agreed to send dozens of armored infantry fighting vehicles, including 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Germany has also been under pressure to authorize the delivery of German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
The U.S. announcement comes weeks after the Biden administration announced a $3 billion package of military assistance that will include Bradleys, which officials said would be especially helpful to Ukrainian units fighting Russian forces in the Donbas region of the country’s east.
Western officials fear that Ukraine has only a narrow window before an anticipated Russian springtime offensive, and have been working quickly to give Kyiv sophisticated weapons that they had earlier held out on sending because of concerns of provoking Moscow.
On Wednesday, Colin H. Kahl, the U.S. under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters that Ukraine needed more mechanized infantry and armored personnel carriers to punch through heavily fortified Russian defenses.
“The Russians are really digging in,” he said. “They’re digging in. They’re digging trenches, they’re putting in these dragon’s teeth, laying mines.”
“To enable the Ukrainians to break through given Russian defenses,” he added, “the emphasis has been shifted to enabling them to combine fire and maneuver in a way that will prove to be more effective.”
The Stryker is a medium-weight, eight-wheeled armored vehicle that can carry troops and weapons. It was first deployed by the Pentagon in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003.
The latest package for Ukraine, reported earlier by The Washington Post, would also include 59 more Bradley Fighting Vehicles; ammunition for HIMARS rocket artillery; eight Avenger air defense systems; 155-millimeter and 105-millimeter artillery rounds; other vehicles; and air defense systems, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
BRUSSELS — A number of countries announced new military aid packages for Ukraine on Thursday, the day before their defense ministers are to gather at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to coordinate their help for Ukraine.
The meeting in Germany will include officials from as many as 50 countries, chaired by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, and will focus on how to provide Ukraine the weapons it needs, including advanced Western tanks, to try to push back Russian troops from occupied territory in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine and some of its allies have been putting pressure on Germany to supply or authorize the export to Ukraine of its advanced Leopard 2 tanks, but Berlin wants Washington in particular to be part of a collective decision to send Western tanks.
To get a jump on the Ramstein gathering, Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, and his Estonian counterpart, Hanno Pevkur, hosted a meeting of their colleagues from the Baltics and Central Europe at an army base in Estonia to announce more military aid for Ukraine.
Some of the donations listed in the so-called Tallinn Pledge — which was also signed by Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovakia — had already been announced, including Britain’s commitment to send Challenger 2 tanks. Others appeared new, including another round of Brimstone missiles from Britain and S-60 anti-aircraft guns with 70,000 pieces of ammunition from Poland.
The countries said in a joint statement that they were committed to “collectively pursuing delivery of an unprecedented set of donations” in support of Ukraine.
“Together we will continue supporting Ukraine to move from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil,” the statement said.
Western officials say that Ukraine has only a narrow window before an anticipated Russian springtime offensive, and they have been working to speed heavy, sophisticated weapons to Kyiv.
In Brussels, after a meeting of top NATO defense officials known as the Military Committee, its chairman, Adm. Rob Bauer of the Netherlands, and the top American officer in Europe, Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, said that quality tanks are important for Ukraine as part of what they called “a balance of all systems.”
“There is not a particular weapon system that is a silver bullet,” General Cavoli said. “In the end, attack simply comes down to a balance between firepower, mobility and protection,” and tanks can play an important role in military success.
The officers were careful to say that individual nations were making their own decisions about supplying Ukraine with particular weapons systems, but they made it clear that the Russians were rebuilding their own military stocks.
“In a war like it is being fought, every type of equipment is necessary,” Admiral Bauer said. “And the Russians are fighting with tanks. So the Ukrainians need tanks as well.”
Details of fresh weapons aid have begun to emerge ahead of the Ramstein meeting, including plans by the United States for a $2.5 billion package that includes nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles, and a pledge from Sweden to deliver NLAW anti-tank missiles and CV90 infantry fighting vehicles in its largest equipment package to date.
Estonia said the package it announced on Thursday as part of the Tallinn Pledge was also its largest military aid package yet to Ukraine, including remote fire and anti-tank weapons as well as ammunition worth a total of 113 million euros, or about $122 million. Military assistance to Ukraine will increase to 370 million euros, or slightly more than 1 percent of Estonia’s gross domestic product.
“The free world must continue to provide arms assistance to Ukraine, and do so at much greater scale and speed,” Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said in a statement. “All countries must look into their stockpiles and ensure that industries are able to produce more and faster.”
- A New Assault: Ukrainian officials have been bracing for weeks for a new Russian offensive. Now, they are warning that the campaign is underway, with the Kremlin seeking to reshape the battlefield and seize the momentum.
- Russia’s Soaring Death Toll: The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is approaching 200,000. American and other Western officials say that the figure is a stark symbol of just how badly invasion has gone for the Kremlin.
- In the East: Russian forces are ratcheting up pressure on the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, pouring in waves of fighters to break Ukraine’s resistance in a bloody campaign aimed at securing Moscow’s first significant battlefield victory in months.
- Military Aid: After weeks of tense negotiations, Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine. But the tanks alone won’t help turn the tide, and Kyiv has started to press Western officials on advanced weapons like long-range missiles and fighter jets.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III met with his new German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, in Berlin on Thursday as their nations were struggling to reach an agreement over sending battle tanks to Ukraine.
Speaking to journalists just one hour after he was sworn into office as defense minister, Mr. Pistorius said the United States and Germany stood “shoulder to shoulder” and would look for ways to continue to support Kyiv.
On Friday, the two officials are scheduled to take part in a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a 40-country coalition that Washington set up to help meet Ukraine’s needs after the Russian invasion, at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Less than a day before that meeting, however, Berlin and Washington have not reached an agreement on whether German-made Leopard 2 tanks should be sent to Ukraine, German lawmakers said. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the head of the German Parliament’s defense committee, said that Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not want to send any of Germany’s tanks unless Washington also committed some of its Abrams tanks. The chancellery declined to comment on the matter.
It is also unclear whether Berlin will allow other European nations that have Leopard tanks to send them to Ukraine. Poland and Finland have expressed a desire to do so, but they need approval from Berlin to re-export the tanks.
One German lawmaker who has been involved in the debate in Berlin said that other European allies appeared to want all countries with Leopard tanks to contribute to Ukraine together, perhaps to prevent Russia from putting pressure on any single European nation.
Britain said this week that it would send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks, which would be the first Western tanks in Ukraine’s forces.
As Russia pushes to shore up its forces in advance of a potential new Russian offensive, Ukraine is under pressure, with the counteroffensive that it began in the fall bogged down. The fighting has depleted both sides’ supply of tanks, which are crucial for quick movement on the battlefield. The delivery of such weapons from the West would also serve as a morale boost for Ukraine after nearly a year of full-scale war.
Germany on Wednesday ended weeks of speculation by saying it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and also allow other countries to send their own.
Here is a brief look at the Leopard 2 tanks and how they could be valuable to Ukraine.
What is a Leopard 2 tank?
The Leopard 2 is one of the world’s leading battle tanks, used by the German Army for decades and by the militaries of more than a dozen other European nations, as well as by the armies of countries as far apart as Canada and Indonesia. It has seen service in conflicts in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Syria.
The tank, which is powered by a diesel engine, features night-vision equipment and a laser range finder that can measure distance to an object, enabling it to better aim at a moving target while traveling over rough terrain. There are multiple iterations of the Leopard 2 with different features and designs.
How could the tank help Ukraine?
Until now, both Ukraine and Russia have used Soviet-era tanks in battle, and the Leopards would offer a big step forward in capability. Ukraine’s government has been calling for tanks on top of earlier packages of military aid from allies in the United States and Europe that included aircraft, air defense systems to protect against Russian missile and drone attacks and longer-range artillery.
Supplies of the Leopard 2 would help offset Russia’s superiority in artillery firepower, which aided Moscow in seizing two cities in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk Province over the summer. They could be of particular value as the war approaches its second year and Ukraine looks to reclaim lost territory and expects a Russian spring offensive.
What are the advantages of Leopards over other tanks?
Britain has promised to supply Ukraine with 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks, and U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the White House would announce as early as Wednesday that it would send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. The American-made M1 Abrams tanks require constant upkeep and generally run on special fuel.
Military experts said that the chief advantage of the Leopard 2 was the quantity that could be sent to Ukraine and the relative ease of repair and logistics.
“The Leopards are in Europe, they are easy to get to Ukraine and several European countries use them, so they are readily available,” said Minna Alander, a research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “Logistics and maintenance would be easier. Spare parts and know-how are here in Europe, so the training of Ukrainians would be easier.”
In addition, because several European countries use the vehicles, multiple nations could contribute either the tanks themselves, or spare parts, training capacity or logistics, said Ms. Alander, an expert in northern European security and German foreign policy.
Why does Germany have to approve the transfer of Leopards owned by other countries?
According to German officials, re-exporting German-made tanks without Berlin’s permission would be illegal.
The contracts that a country signs to obtain weapons from German manufacturers or German military stocks requires them to request a re-export license from the federal government should they wish to send such weapons to another country. (The United States has similar requirements, as do other countries, like Switzerland.)
What are the potential pitfalls?
Ukraine’s leaders and military experts in the United States and elsewhere have said in recent weeks that Russia appears to be preparing for an offensive in the late winter or early spring. It is not clear that the supply of Western tanks, including the Leopard 2, would arrive at the battle front quickly enough to confront that threat.
“Ukraine needs them as soon as possible, and everything points to Russia preparing for a bigger offensive in the spring, so the clock is really ticking,” Ms. Alander said.
Even if the Ukrainians get trained quickly, that could still take months, and there are still questions about how many tanks could be provided and at what level they could be maintained.
Erika Solomon and John Ismay contributed reporting.
William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, traveled to Kyiv last week for secret consultations with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials.
The C.I.A. tries to keep Mr. Burns’s travels secret, and the agency never comments on the topic. But one U.S. official acknowledged Mr. Burns’s visit and said that it was meant to “reinforce our continued support for Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression.”
Since just before the invasion, Mr. Burns has made periodic visits to Ukraine to meet with intelligence officials and to convey information to Mr. Zelensky. A second American official said that Mr. Burns’ recent visit was an intelligence mission designed “to ensure that information continues to flow both ways.” The visit was earlier reported by The Washington Post.
There was no comment from Mr. Zelensky or his office about the meeting.
The U.S. government has periodically complained that it knows more about Russian military movements and plans than Ukraine’s. Kyiv has often been tight-lipped about its operational plans. But before Ukraine’s September counteroffensive, its officials began to share more about their intentions, allowing the U.S. to provide intelligence that helped Kyiv’s military reshape its plans to target weak points in Russian lines.
Mr. Burns also met with senior Ukrainian intelligence officials on his recent trip, though U.S. officials would not discuss the nature of those discussions.
Mr. Burns, a career diplomat, emerged early in the Biden administration as an emergency envoy and problem solver for the White House. And the intelligence relationship between Washington and Kyiv has been vital to the war effort. Ukraine is heavily dependent on insights from the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies on Russian planning.
Shortly before the invasion, he traveled to Ukraine to warn Mr. Zelensky and urge him to shore up defenses around Kyiv. The intelligence provided on that trip helped Ukraine fend off the initial attack by elite Russian airborne troops on Hostomel Airport, north of Kyiv.
The latest visit comes at a crucial point in the war. Ukraine is pushing for more heavy Western weapons, the Russian military has changed its general in command, and the war has ground into a stalemate over the winter aside from the fighting in and around Bakhmut.
Other high-level U.S. officials have also visited Ukraine in recent days. On Monday, a delegation including Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman; Jon Finer, the principal deputy national security adviser; and Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, met with Mr. Zelensky.
Russia’s domestic intelligence agency has opened a criminal case against a United States citizen for collecting intelligence information related to “biological” topics, the country’s Interfax news service reported on Thursday.
The report did not identify the person or say whether the agency, the Federal Security Service, known as F.S.B., had taken an American into custody.
A State Department spokesman said the United States was “aware of unconfirmed reports” of an investigation into an American citizen and was looking into the matter. The spokesman, Vedant Patel, said that he was not aware of a U.S. citizen being detained recently in Russia, but cautioned that the United States often has imperfect information about events there.
“Generally, the Russian Federation does not abide by its obligations to provide timely notification of the detention of U.S. citizens in Russia,” Mr. Patel said. “Russian authorities also don’t regularly inform the embassy of the trial, sentencing or movement of U.S. citizens.”
He added that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow “continues to engage with Russian authorities to ensure timely consular notifications and access to all U.S. citizens.”
One American citizen, Paul Whelan, is in prison in Russia on charges of spying that he and the U.S. government call fabricated. U.S. officials have been working for years to secure his release.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s military said on Thursday that it planned to hold joint training exercises off its coast next month with Russia and China, a move criticized by the United States, which has been trying to rally other countries to isolate Russia over the war in Ukraine.
The exercises will coincide with the first anniversary of the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24. South Africa was among three dozen countries that abstained last year in a vote at the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Russia for its claim to have annexed several regions of Ukraine.
South Africa has conducted military exercises with Russia and China before, as well as with the United States and NATO countries. The South African National Defense Force said that the upcoming drills, to be held from Feb. 17-27 near the coastal towns of Durban and Richards Bay, were a “means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China.”
The United States, which has fostered a decades-long strategic partnership with South Africa, immediately expressed disapproval. David Feldmann, a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, said in a statement, “We note with concern” the plan by South Africa to move ahead with the joint exercises “even as Moscow continues its brutal and unlawful invasion of Ukraine.”
He added, “We encourage South Africa to cooperate militarily with fellow democracies that share our mutual commitment to human rights and the rule of law.”
The naval drill is a show of diplomatic independence for South Africa, analysts said. South Africa is part of an alliance with Brazil, Russia, India and China — known by the acronym BRICS — and this naval exercise reasserts South Africa’s position that it will not allow the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to dictate its diplomatic relations.
“It is seen as a war that is happening in Europe, and as far as South Africa is concerned, it’s not part of this war,” said Denys Reva, a maritime researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the organization with which Denys Reva is affiliated. It is the Institute for Security Studies, not the Institute of Security Studies.
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The head of Russia’s Wagner private military company has claimed that its fighters, who have used ruthless tactics to try to advance in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, have captured the village of Klishchiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold southwest of the key city of Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian Army said early on Thursday that it had repelled Russian attacks against Klishchiivka during the previous 24 hours, but there was no immediate comment about the claim by the Wagner group.
The loss of the village could imperil Ukraine’s ability to hold onto Bakhmut by severing supply lines to the city. Bakhmut has been a focal point of Russian attacks over the recent months as Russia continues its push to capture all of the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine. The city has also become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Klishchiivka, a small village south of Bakhmut, has been the site of intense fighting in recent weeks. Ukrainian forces had deemed it key to the defense of Bakhmut because it lies on high ground directly east of roads into the city that are heavily used by the Ukrainian military.
“The Russians are pushing everywhere,” said Mongo, a soldier fighting for Ukraine stationed in Bakhmut who asked to be identified by his military call sign.
Russia’s campaign to take Bakhmut has come at an enormous cost in casualties. But with signs that Russia has advanced to the north in Soledar — a small salt-mining town that Russia claims to have captured, though Ukraine says it is still fighting there — and the loss of Klishchiivka to the south, Ukraine’s ability to keep control of Bakhmut looks increasingly shaky.
Ukrainian officials estimate that there are more than 20,000 Russian soldiers around Bakhmut, including Wagner fighters and Russia’s elite airborne units.
From Klishchiivka, Russian artillery would be able to more accurately shell Ukrainian forces entering or exiting Bakhmut. And if Russian forces manage to cut off or begin to directly threaten some of Bakhmut’s important supply routes, Ukrainian troops would probably be forced to withdraw from the city or risk encirclement.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner company, said in an audio statement released via his catering company’s press service on Wednesday that he could “safely state” that his fighters had captured Klishchiivka in full and that “fierce battles” continued around the village.
“The enemy clings to every meter of the ground,” Mr. Prigozhin said in the statement. “Despite various opinions that the Ukrainian army is running away from Artyomovsk, that is not the case,” he said, using the Soviet name for Bakhmut. “In any case, Wagner units are advancing meter by meter,” he added. “Artyomovsk will be captured.”
A claim by Mr. Prigozhin in his statement that Klishchiivka had been captured “exclusively” by his fighters could widen a rift between his company and regular Russian troops. As the Russian army has suffered setbacks in Ukraine in recent months, Mr. Prigozhin has clashed with the country’s military leadership over its conduct of the war.
On the eve of a critical meeting with allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine continued to stress the need for powerful Western-made tanks to aid his country’s defense efforts.
Calling the subject “relevant and really sensitive,” Mr. Zelensky told reporters on Thursday that the acquisition of heavy tanks from European allies and the United States depends on factors outside his control and “not on the will of Ukraine.”
“We exert political pressure as best we can, but the most important thing is that we exert reasoned pressure,” Mr. Zelensky said, according to the Ukrinform news agency, during a joint news conference in Kyiv with Charles Michel, the president of the European Council. “Against thousands of tanks available to the Russian Federation, the courage of our military and motivation of the Ukrainian people are not enough.”
Later, in his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky called modern Western tanks “one of the most important elements” for victory. He said Ukraine was waiting to see if Germany would agree to allow several countries, including Poland and Lithuania, to donate their German-made Leopard 2 to Ukraine.
“Now we are waiting for a decision from one European capital that will activate the prepared chains of cooperation on tanks,” he said.
Ukraine has long asked its Western allies to include their tanks in military aid packages, and this week Britain committed to sending Kyiv 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks in a bid to persuade other nations to offer similar support.
On Thursday, the American and German defense secretaries met in Berlin to discuss, among other things, their difficulty in reaching such an agreement: Germany has been reluctant to send its Leopard 2 tanks or to authorize their transfer from other nations that have them, and Washington has not promised Ukraine any of its M1 Abrams tanks, as German officials have suggested.
The matter has become more pressing amid concern among Ukraine’s allies that Kyiv's military lacks sufficient time to break an impasse with Russian forces before Moscow initiates another ground offensive in the spring. Ukraine was also shaken this week by a helicopter crash that killed the country’s interior minister and his deputy, creating a vacuum in the cabinet.
Although Ukraine’s Western allies have largely balked at the requests for tanks, several countries, including France, Germany and the United States, have agreed recently to give Ukraine dozens of armored infantry fighting vehicles. And the U.S. plans to send Ukraine nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles as part of a roughly $2.5 billion shipment of arms and equipment announced by the Defense Department on Thursday.
Since the war in Ukraine began, the United States and Ukraine’s other allies have held back from sending Kyiv their most potent arms. A new episode of “The Daily” podcast looks at how, and why, that has started to change over the past few weeks.
Across Ukraine on Thursday, Orthodox Christians plunged into frigid lakes, ponds and rivers to mark Epiphany, taking part in an annual rite that marks the end of the country’s monthlong festive period.
Epiphany, as celebrated across the Eastern Orthodox world, commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ. Many mark the occasion by dipping themselves into cold waters — a purifying tradition that this year felt particularly meaningful for some in Ukraine, where war has turned lives upside down for the past 11 months.
On Thursday afternoon, crowds gathered at a pond and a lake in Polyanytsya, a small village in western Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains, as a misty fog clung to the pine-covered slopes. The weather was warmer than usual, as it has been in much of Europe, and the snow that typically coats the nearby ski slopes has yet to materialize this season.
Often the pond is covered in ice, but not this year. On the shore, a priest held a small ceremony, sprinkling holy water that mixed with the raindrops falling from the clouds overhead, and celebrants stripped down to shorts and swimsuits for their ritual immersion.
At the lake, Taras Bihus, a 29-year-old soldier who had recently returned to the area from fighting on the frontline, crossed himself as he walked slowly into the water. He emerged with a heavy exhale, slapping his arms and legs.
“It’s healing for the body and healing for the mind,” Mr. Bikus said.
Ukraine has established a commission to investigate the cause of a helicopter crash that killed 14 people including the country’s interior minister this week, an Air Force spokesman said on Thursday, but it will likely take weeks to reach a conclusion.
The helicopter came down on Wednesday near a kindergarten and a residential building in Brovary, a small town outside Kyiv, causing severe damage and panic among parents and children who were at the school. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine described it as a “terrible tragedy.”
The interior minister, Denys Monastyrsky, was one of Mr. Zelensky’s trusted advisers. The crash left a void at the top of the ministry just as Kyiv prepares for a possible Russian offensive in the spring and endures a barrage of missile and drone attacks on its energy infrastructure.
Ukraine will send six survivors of the crash abroad for treatment for burns, the deputy health minister, Iryna Mykychak, said. The six, who include children, are “the most difficult and complex cases” after the crash, she said, though she added in an appearance on Ukrainian television that “none of them is in a critical or life-threatening condition.”
They had already been transferred to a burn unit at a hospital in the capital, she said, giving no details about their onward destination. In all, 25 people were being treated in the hospital, including 11 children, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said on Wednesday.
The officials aboard the helicopter had been traveling to a combat zone, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office. Also killed, according to Ukraine’s Parliament, were Yevhen Yenin, the first deputy minister for internal affairs; and Yurii Lubkovich, the ministry’s state secretary.
The precise cause of the crash — whether mechanical failure, pilot error, environmental factors or sabotage — remains unknown. Yurii Ihnat, an Air Force spokesman, said on Ukrainian television on Thursday that an investigative commission would “take a lot of time” to reach its conclusion.
“Each part of the helicopter is collected, each detail can say something, give more information on what had happened,” he said. “It is not a matter of several days. It is necessary to fully establish, find out the details of what happened on that day.”
The crash came as Kyiv renews a diplomatic push for some of the most lethal armaments from allies, who worry that Ukraine’s military lacks time to break a deadlock with Russian forces before Moscow launches another ground assault.
Mr. Monastyrsky, the highest-ranking Ukrainian government official to die since Russia invaded in February, oversaw tens of thousands of Ukrainians fighting to defend their country as part of the police, national guard and border units.
He also directed the rescue and recovery efforts this week in Dnipro, where a Russian missile killed 45 people in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the nearly yearlong war.
In his nightly address on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky said that Mr. Monastyrsky’s responsibilities had been reallocated and that the country’s head of national police, Ihor Klymenko, would lead the ministry until a replacement is chosen.
DAVOS, Switzerland — Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany offered a robust expression of solidarity with Ukraine at the World Economic Forum this week, a stance reflecting not only the imperative of repelling a brutal aggressor but also palpable relief that Europe has not been crippled by Russia’s war.
Mr. Scholz was among several European officials who trekked to the frigid, snow-covered streets of the Alpine ski resort where the forum is held to express confidence that Europe was withstanding the sudden loss of Russian energy supplies. By diversifying rapidly into alternate energy sources and bolstering efforts to conserve, he said, the Germans had staved off the danger of homes losing heat or electricity.
“I can say that our energy supply for this winter is secure,” Mr. Scholz said to a receptive audience at the annual gathering. “Thanks to well-filled storage facilities, thanks to improved energy efficiency, thanks to remarkable solidarity within Europe, and thanks to the readiness of our companies and of millions of citizens to save energy.”
The chancellor made no mention of another pressing matter: whether Germany will send battlefield tanks to Ukraine. The German government is widely expected to announce its decision on Friday after its officials meet with American and other allies at the Ramstein Air Base in western Germany.
Mr. Scholz has come under escalating pressure from Britain and other countries to send Leopard 2 tanks, and to give other countries that own the German-made tanks the greenlight to do so, too. But Germany has been reluctant, fearing that they could lead to a direct confrontation between Russian and NATO forces. And important questions remain unanswered, among them whether any German commitment would be linked to a commitment by the United States.
Among those piling on the pressure at Davos was Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who called on the West to speed up aid. “The time the free world uses to think is used by the terrorist state to kill,” he said via a video link from Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The timing of his appearance was a stark reminder of the dangers Ukrainian leaders face. He asked for a moment of silence to honor the victims of a helicopter crash in a suburb of Kyiv, who included Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs and more than a dozen others.
The speeches by Mr. Scholz and Mr. Zelensky came during a frenetic week of diplomacy — in Davos and in foreign capitals — as Ukraine appealed to the West for tanks, air defense missiles and other advanced weapons. Its goal is to reinforce its battlefield position ahead of a potential new Russian offensive.
DAVOS, Switzerland — There’s very little to laugh about when it comes to Russia’s war on Ukraine. But Britain’s former prime minister, Boris Johnson, provided a rare moment of levity amid the solemn pledges of support for Ukraine from political leaders and corporate titans attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.
On Thursday, Mr. Johnson was at a breakfast for Ukraine, which became one of the biggest draws at the gathering. He listened as Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister, used a hockey metaphor, which she credited to the Canadian superstar Wayne Gretzky, to describe why the West should do more for Ukraine.
When Ms. Freeland had finished, Mr. Johnson leaned into his microphone and said, “Tell Putin to get the puck out of Ukraine.”
The room erupted in laughter, a brief moment of light relief at a gathering that has been otherwise consumed by sober questions, like whether Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks, or whether investors like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock will pour billions of dollars into the reconstruction of Ukraine. (Their bosses say yes, though BlackRock’s chief executive, Larry Fink, added that investors were entitled to a “fair and just return.”)
Ukraine has long had a lively presence at the World Economic Forum, thanks largely to the efforts of Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire who has drawn A-list politicians and business people to a breakfast gathering there for many years.
Now that his country’s survival commands the world’s headlines, the breakfast is a bona fide news event. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte; President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry; and current and former American senators were all on hand. The crowd of several hundred spilled into the hallway outside.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine attended the event via a video link, and thanked steadfast supporters of Ukraine like Mr. Johnson, who as prime minister made Britain an early contributor of weapons to Ukrainian troops. With Germany still deciding whether to send tanks, Mr. Zelensky urged Europe not to dawdle.
“This is not a cinema where you wait for the film to start,” he said.
Mr. Johnson, who became friends with Mr. Zelensky over four visits to Ukraine during his time in office, picked up the Ukrainian president’s theme. Mr. Johnson dismissed fears — expressed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and at times by Mr. Biden — that heavier weapons could escalate the conflict, risking a direct clash between Russia and NATO.
“Give them the tanks,” Mr. Johnson said. “There’s absolutely nothing to be lost.”
The United States and Israel have condemned comments made by Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, in which he likened Western nations’ actions against Moscow’s war in Ukraine to the Holocaust.
“Our first reaction is how dare he compare anything to the Holocaust, anything, let alone a war that they started,” John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday, referring to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine 11 months ago.
Mr. Lavrov said at an annual news conference on Wednesday that the United States had gathered a coalition of European countries that is using Ukraine as a proxy to solve “the Russian question.” He compared such actions to those of Adolf Hitler, “who sought a final solution to the ‘Jewish question.’”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called Mr. Lavrov’s remarks “unacceptable.” It said in a statement that relating current events to the Holocaust — the systematic killing of millions of European Jews — “distorts the historical truth, desecrates the memory of those who perished and the survivors” and should be “strongly rejected.”
Ariel Muzicant, the president of the European Jewish Congress, an organization that represents Jewish groups across the continent, said in a statement that Mr. Lavrov’s remarks were “Holocaust distortion at its most basic level.”
It is not the first time Mr. Lavrov has drawn ire for such comments. Last May, Israel condemned his assertion that Jews were “the biggest antisemites” and his false claim that Hitler had Jewish roots.
“This is not the first time the minister has used Holocaust equivalence and Hitler references,” Mr. Musicant said. “This must stop.”
Israel has walked a fine line during Russia’s war in Ukraine. Although it has expressed support for Kyiv, it has also tried to avoid damaging relations with Russia, which has a large military presence in Syria, Israel’s neighbor.
In March, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was also criticized in Israel when, in a virtual address to the country’s Parliament, he compared the suffering of Ukrainians in the war to that of Jews during the Holocaust.
Patrick Kingsley and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.
Ukraine’s prime minister has urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to impose sanctions on Russia’s state nuclear firm as the atomic agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, stations experts at Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to provide stability in the face of Russian attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure.
The call from the official, Denys Shmyhal, aimed to increase pressure on Russia, which has seized control of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex and whose strikes briefly forced Ukraine’s three other nuclear facilities to disconnect their reactors from the electricity grid in November.
Russia’s invasion and its monthslong campaign of strikes on energy infrastructure have made Ukraine a critical focus for the International Atomic Energy Agency and a challenge for its director, Rafael Mariano Grossi, who was in the country this week for the latest in a series of visits.
“We continue to insist on restricting Russia’s rights and privileges at the I.A.E.A. and terminating cooperation with Russia in the nuclear sector,” Mr. Shmyhal said on Wednesday. His comments were carried by Ukraine’s Pravda news website.
The United States, European countries and others have imposed waves of sanctions on Russia but none directly on its state nuclear company, Rosatom.
The agency’s experts will monitor the plants for physical integrity, safety and security, and will check on conditions for workers, Mr. Grossi said in a briefing this week at the Rivne nuclear plant in western Ukraine. He described the presence of the experts as “essential,” not least to inform the international community about any potential problems.
In a country that suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986, the focus in Ukraine now is on the Zaporizhzhia complex. Russian troops seized it early in the invasion, effectively turning it into a battle zone.
Russia has stationed troops at the complex, and the Ukrainian authorities have accused them of using its grounds to shell surrounding towns. Each side has blamed the other for shelling that has damaged the complex’s infrastructure, including power lines and a storage area for spent nuclear fuel.
All six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia complex have been cycled down as a precaution, and I.A.E.A. inspectors have been monitoring safety and security there since September. Mr. Grossi’s mission this week was to station inspectors at the other plants and to push to establish a safety and security zone around the Zaporizhzhia complex.
Since seizing the plant, Russian forces have detained and interrogated its Ukrainian operators, and tried to push them to sign contracts with Rosatom.
The head of Ukraine’s nuclear company, Energoatom, said on Tuesday in comments carried by the Interfax Ukraine news website that about 650 of the up to 3,000 people currently working at the plant had signed the contracts.