Ukraine would have freed Kherson faster without Scholz foot-dragging

Inna Sovsun says she hoped they would’ve got tanks earlier

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Kyiv has been pleading with Berlin for tanks since June, and would have liberated the Russian-occupied region of Kherson much more quickly had Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to provide them sooner, a Ukrainian MP has said. Inna Sovsun also said while a US decision to provide her country with tanks was most welcome, it would likely be sometime before they could be deployed – and also said they were likely to guzzle up much more fuel when they were.

Germany last Wednesday confirmed it will send a company of 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, on the same day President Joe Biden announced the US would be supplying 31 Abrams tanks. Earlier in the month the UK announced it would be sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks of its own.

Speaking via video link from Kyiv, Ms Sovsun, a member of the Holos party and a former Ukrainian deputy Minister of Education and Science, told “I have been working on this tank issue quite a lot myself because I was working a lot with the German Parliament.

“So, I knew so much about these negotiations about tanks.

“My first talks with the German members of Parliament about tanks took place in June. That was not me coming up with this idea, of course, I was in touch with the Minister of Defence who was giving them a list of what we needed.

“So that is where it started, all very slowly, I am not saying I was doing this myself but it is something I know was going on.”

Ms Sovsun said she had been hopeful of a deal which would have enabled Ukrainian forces to use tanks in the counter-offensive to retake Kherson, where they would have been particularly useful given the flat terrain.

She said: “So we were be using that argument saying, ‘Look, this is what we’re doing, we can do this, we are successful, we had already cleared out part of the region by that time, just give us the tanks.”

In the event, Ukraine successfully liberated the region without the armoured vehicles but discussions continued, Ms Sovsun said.

She added: “The Germans were very, very difficult about this.

“A majority of members of the Parliament of Germany were in favour of giving tanks. There was actually a pseudo-coalition, because Christian Democrats wanted to give tanks but they of course in opposition, but then also the FDP – the German liberals – and the Greens were in favour and even part of the Social Democrats,

“But the problem was that the decision need to be made by the Federal Security Council and basically it was all blocked by Scholz. I was asking, what is the reason for that? Because I didn’t understand it because by the time.”

Germany had used some “some awkward arguments”, Ms Sovsun said.

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She said: “One of them is is of course what we have witnessed to be true, that Germany doesn’t want to be the first to give tanks, that somebody else needs to be the first to do that.

“The second argument that I’ve heard quite a lot as well was a historical argument. They say that it’s painful for us to imagine German tanks fighting against Russian tanks in the fields of Ukraine.”

That had prompted what Ms Sovsun said were “very weird discussions” about the fact that Nazi Germany killed more Ukrainians than Russians in World War 2.

She continued: “About this first argument that we don’t want to be the first to give, from a practical perspective again to my simplistic understanding of military affairs, it is always easier to use a single type of weapon than several.

“It would be easier for Ukraine just to have Leopard tanks. The logistics from Germany to Ukraine is of course, much easier than from the United States to Ukraine, training is easier.”

Ms Sovsun also highlighted one other vital consideration which has received less publicity.

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She said: “The major problem with Abrams tanks, which is why we were not even actually asking for Abrams tanks, is that they use very expensive jet fuel.

“Apparently they can be kind of fixed and they can use a regular diesel but even so they would use much more of it compared to low budget tanks.

“One of the important arguments which we were using, why we were putting so much pressure on Germany, is that the Leopard is basically a European tank.

“The majority of European countries actually have some Leopard tanks in their possession.

“So it’s not just a German tank that we’re asking for, Poland has like 200 something of them, Greece, Spain, other countries, have Leopards.

“So we were saying like this is a European tank so it makes that we use it.”

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