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Several BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, howitzer artillery pieces and more than a dozen T-72 tanks were yesterday loaded on a train bound for Slovakia where they are expected to head on to Ukraine, footage run by public broadcaster Czech Television showed.
The delivery is understood to be a gift agreed on by NATO allies, raising fears the trans-Atlantic bloc could be dragged into the Russian war in Ukraine despite remaining on the sidelines for more than a month.
NATO leaders have so far given Ukraine anti-tank and anti-craft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, but have not offered any heavy armour or fighter jets. Prague’s decision to supply tanks to Kyiv will pile pressure on NATO allies to follow suit.
It comes as Russian artillery continued to pound the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv today as the West prepared more sanctions against Moscow in response to civilian killings that Kyiv and its allies have called war crimes.
The Czech Republic has become the first NATO country to send tanks to Ukraine, providing T-72 and armoured infantry vehicles following President Zelensky’s plea for help (pictured, tanks loaded on a train bound for Ukraine on Tuesday)
Several BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (pictured) and more than a dozen T-72 tanks were yesterday loaded on a train bound for Ukraine, footage published by Czech Television showed
The delivery is understood to be a gift agreed on by NATO allies, raising fears the trans-Atlantic bloc could be dragged into the Russian war in Ukraine despite remaining on the sidelines for more than a month
Five T-72s and four BMP-1s spotted being moved out of storage and loaded on a train in Czech Republic. They will reportedly head to Slovakia, and possibly then to Ukraine
The Czech delivery of T-72s (pictured) has been funded by Prague as well as private donors who have contributed to a crowdsourced fundraising campaign to supply arms to Kyiv
NATO is set to discuss the delivery of more weapons to Ukraine at a meeting today and tomorrow, according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, but the US is widely expected to reject most demands over fears NATO could be pulled into the war
What is the T-72 battle tank?
First made in Russia, the T-72 is staple of eastern European militaries and is owned by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
Most of these are the T-72M standard model, which are slightly behind Russia’s updated T-72B3 versions that have been used in Ukraine.
The Czech Republic has ordered 35 tanks upgraded to T-72M4 CZ, giving the tank a comprehensive upgrade in every aspect and costing more than $5million per tank.
It is understood the tanks Prague has sent to Ukraine are not the T-72M4 but have undergone some local modifications.
Crew: Three people
Main gun: 125 mm smoothbore
Anti-tank guided missile: 9M119 Svir or 9M119M Refleks
Machine guns: 1 x 7.62 mm, 1 x 12.7 mm
Weight: 45 tons
Length (including gun): 9.53 metres
Width: 3.46 metres
Height: 2.2 metres
Top speed: 37 to 47mph
Czech Defence Minister Jana Cernochova told parliament yesterday: ‘I will only assure you that the Czech Republic is helping Ukraine as much as it can and will continue to help by [supplying] military equipment, both light and heavy.’
She declined to provide further details on the transfer but it comes after Ukraine’s Vlodymyr Zelensky demanded NATO deliver armour, fighter jets and other military equipment during a summit in Brussels on March 24.
Ukraine burns through in a single day the same amount of weaponry it receives in a week, according to a senior Polish official, and Kyiv’s eastern neighbours are concerned with keeping up with demand, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Czech delivery has been funded by Prague as well as private donors who have contributed to a crowdsourced fundraising campaign to supply arms to Kyiv.
Prague, and neighbouring Slovakia which has no tanks to give, are also considering helping repair and refit damaged Ukrainian military equipment. Germany will send several dozen infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv and the UK has approved the delivery of 20 ambulances.
The United States has agreed to provide an additional $100 million in assistance to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-armour systems, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. US chipmaker Intel Corp (INTC.O) said it had suspended business operations in Russia, joining a growing list of companies leaving the country.
NATO is set to discuss the delivery of more weapons to Ukraine at a meeting today and tomorrow, according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
But western officials on Monday suggested the Biden administration in Washington would act as a throttle on plans to supply more equipment to Ukraine, over fears that the war machines could breach rules allowing only defensive weapons to be supplied.
One said that the US was ‘not minded’ to support the supply of T-72 tanks of the type used by Ukraine from sympathetic neighbours, adding: ‘They have this offensive dimension, they are not purely defensive. They would not be particularly relevant to the military activities the Ukrainians need to undertake.’
A proposal to transfer 28 MiG jets from Poland to Ukraine via the US last month was scrapped amid NATO concerns about getting drawn into conflict with Russia.
NATO leaders have so far given Ukraine anti-tank and anti-craft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, but have not offered any heavy armour or fight jets (pictured, Czech tanks on a train bound for Ukraine)
Prague, and neighbouring Slovakia, are also considering helping repair and refit damaged Ukrainian military equipment (pictured, Czech tanks on a train bound for Ukraine)
Field engineers of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine stand next to destroyed armoured vehicles on a street in the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, April 5, 2022
Serhii Lahovskyi, 26, and other residents carry the body of Ihor Lytvynenko to bury him in Bucha, April 5, 2022
Soldiers and investigators look at charred bodies lying on the ground in Bucha where Russia has been accused of war crimes
Finland and Sweden would be welcomed into NATO if they applied to join, Secretary-General Stoltenberg says – as Russia warns of retaliation
Finland and Sweden would be welcomed into NATO if they applied to join, the head of the alliance has said today, in what would be a major blow for Russia amid Vladimir Putin’s faltering invasion of Ukraine.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO general secretary, told a news conference that the 30-member alliance would work to overcome ‘security concerns’ between the countries applying to join and being ratified – amid fears Russia would retaliate.
He spoke after Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin said her country could take a decision on joining the alliance within weeks and polls in Sweden also showed a majority of people support membership.
If either country opts to join the alliance, it would mark an historic reconstruction of European security architecture that has held since the end of the Second World War.
Finland, which fought a short but bloody conflict with the Soviets in the build-up to World War Two, has been officially neutral since signing a pact in 1948.
As part of the pact, Finland agreed never to join a military alliance viewed as hostile to Russia, never to allow its territory to be used for an attack against Russia, and to maintain an armed forces for self-defence purposes only.
In return, the country – which shares an 830-mile border with Russia – was given guarantees by Moscow that it would not be attacked.
NATO has already supplied fuel, ammunition, helmets, protective gear and medical supplies to Ukraine, Stoltenberg said yesterday. The discussions come despite the bloc’s desperate efforts to avoid being dragged into Putin’s war in Ukraine.
President Joe Biden has in recent weeks ordered more US troops to NATO’s eastern flank to reassure edgy allies and pledged to protect the bloc’s territory if Russian forces stray over more borders.
A visibly angry Zelensky on March 26 demanded that Western nations hand over military hardware that was ‘gathering dust’ in stockpiles, saying Ukraine needed just one per cent of NATO’s aircraft and one per cent of its tanks.
Zelensky accused the West of holding back on supplies because of ‘intimidation’ from Moscow and suggested Russia is in charge of NATO.
And in a late night address on Saturday, Zelensky said: ‘We need more ammunition. We’ve already been waiting 31 days. What is NATO doing?
‘Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation? We are asking for one per cent of what NATO has, nothing more.’
‘If only those who have been thinking for 31 days on how to hand over dozens of jets and tanks had one per cent of their courage,’ Zelensky said as he praised his troops’ efforts.
Russia’s constant artillery barrages and aerial bombing are reducing Ukrainian cities to rubble, killing thousands of people and driving millions to flee their homes.
Russian artillery pounded the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv today as the West prepared more sanctions against Moscow in response to civilian killings that Kyiv and its allies have called war crimes.
The besieged southern port of Mariupol has been under almost constant bombardment since the early days of the invasion that began on Feb. 24, trapping tens of thousands of residents without food, water or power.
‘The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,’ British military intelligence said. ‘Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water. Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.’
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said authorities would try to evacuate trapped civilians through 11 humanitarian corridors today, though people trying to leave the besieged city of Mariupol would have to use their own vehicles.
Zelensky accused the West of holding back on supplies because of ‘intimidation’ from Moscow and suggested Russia is in charge of NATO
A car is seen riddled with bullet holes on the street on April 5, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. Milley said the war in Ukraine could last for years
Nina, 74, reacts as she walks past buildings that were destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka, in the Kyiv region
Russian forces last week pulled back from positions outside Kyiv and shifted the focus of their assault away from the capital, and Ukraine’s general staff said the northeastern city of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest, also remained under attack.
Authorities in the eastern region of Luhansk on Wednesday urged residents to get out ‘while it is safe’ from an area that Ukraine also expects to be the target of a new offensive.
Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, described as a ‘special military operation’ by Moscow and the biggest assault on a European nation since World War Two, gained new impetus this week when dead civilians shot at close range were found in the northern town of Bucha after it was retaken from Russian forces.
Moscow denied targeting civilians there and called the evidence presented a forgery staged by the West to discredit it.
Speaking a day after the European Union announced new sanctions, including a ban on Russian coal imports and denying Russian ships access to EU ports, the head of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, said there was more to come.
‘These sanctions will not be our last sanctions,’ she told European Parliament on Wednesday. ‘Now we have to look into oil and revenues Russia gets from fossil fuels.’
Europe gets about a third of its natural gas from Russia and has been wary of the economic impact of the total ban on Russian energy imports advocated by Ukraine, but Von der Leyen’s remarks signal the bloc’s strengthening resolve to take the step that Kyiv says is vital to securing a deal to end the war.
The White House said it would also unveil new sanctions today, in part in response to Bucha. The new sanctions, coordinated between Washington, the Group of Seven advanced economies and the EU, will target Russian banks and officials and ban new investment in Russia, the White House said.
After an impassioned address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Zelensky said new sanctions against Russia ‘must be commensurate with the gravity of the occupiers’ war crimes,’ calling it a ‘crucial moment’ for Western leaders.
Ukrainian officials say between 150 and 300 bodies might be in a mass grave by a church in Bucha, north of the capital Kyiv. Satellite images taken weeks ago show bodies of civilians on a street in the town, a private US company said.
Reuters reporters saw at least four victims shot through the head in Bucha, one with their hands tied behind their back. Residents have recounted cases of several others slain, some shot through their eyes and one apparently beaten to death and mutilated.
Since launching an invasion that has uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s population, Russia has failed to capture a single major city.
Dead bodies litter the streets near Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after Russian forces withdrew from the region – leaving evidence of ‘war crimes’ in their wake
Ukrainian servicemen inspect the wreckage of houses, cars and Russian military vehicles in the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, yesterday
Men take away bodies of Ukrainian civilians killed in the Russian invasion, on a street in the small city of Bucha of Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 03 April 2022
Members of the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade of the 35th All-Russian Army, who Ukrainian authorities named as the culprits responsible for the torture and slaughter of hundreds on the outskirts of Kyiv, withdrew from Bucha (pictured) last week and arrived in Mazyr, Belarus, yesterday
Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, which was the recaptured by the Ukrainian army, Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 04 April 2022. More than 410 bodies of killed civilians were carried from the recaptured territory in Kyiv’s area for exgumation and expert examination
People gather outside the Ukrainian embassy in Yerevan to mourn civilians found dead in the town of Bucha, to the northwest of Kyiv, on April 4, 2022
Source: Daily Mail