Andrew Neil brands German coalition split over sending Ukraine weapons ‘strange’

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The political commentator said Chancellor Olaf Scholz was “at odds” with the Greens and Free Democratic Party (FDF) over arming Ukraine with heavy weapons because Mr Scholz is not “keen”. But Andrew Neil pointed out Mr Scholz’s reason for not sending weapons to Ukraine was “strange” because US President Joe Biden was already sending weapons.

He tweeted: “German ruling coalition divided over arming Ukraine.

“Soc Dem Chancellor Olaf Scholz at odds with Greens, FDP who want Berlin to ship heavy weapons.

“Scholz not keen, Says only possible in co-ord. with Nato, Biden. Strange since Biden already sending heavy weapons.”

It comes after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Germany to stage a historic reversal of its policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones, with Berlin promising to supply Kyiv with anti-tank weapons and missiles.

But the Ukrainian government has been frustrated by delays in delivery due to several ministries’ approvals required for consignments of arms exports which have to be coordinated by the Federal Chancellery.

And Mr Scholz is now under renewed pressure to deliver heavy weaponry to Ukraine after resisting.

In an interview with rbb radio, the centre-left leader said his government had set Germany “on a decisive course” to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons like anti-tank and anti-air missiles.

He added: “We are delivering, we have delivered and we will deliver. And we are coordinating closely with all of our allies on what we are doing.”

His resistance was also supported by German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck who said “it is right for Germany to act in unity with its partners. And this unity must be maintained at all costs”.

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Germany has so far sent military supplies including grenades, anti-aircraft rockets, machine guns and ammunition, but not heavy weapons.

Last week, Mr Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, expanding the aid to include heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine.

So far, four flights of weapons have been sent by the US as part of the new package.

Russia launched its long-awaited all-out assault on east Ukraine on Tuesday, unleashing thousands of troops in what was described as the Battle of the Donbas, a campaign to seize two provinces and salvage a battlefield victory.

Ukrainian officials insisted their troops would withstand the new assault, which they said began overnight with massive Russian artillery and rocket barrages and attempts to advance across almost the entire stretch of the eastern front.

In the first reported success of Russia’s new assault, Ukraine said the Russians had seized Kreminna, a frontline town of 18,000 people in Luhansk, one of the two Donbas provinces.

The province’s Ukrainian governor, Sergiy Gaidai, told a briefing: “Kreminna is under the control of the ‘Orcs’. They have entered the city,” invoking the goblin-like creatures who appear in J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy books.

Mr Gaidai said Russian forces are attacking “on all sides”, authorities are trying to evacuate civilians and it is impossible to tally the civilian dead.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in a video address overnight that they would withstand the new advance.

He added: ”No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves.”

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