On Friday, some 50 nations agreed to provide Kyiv with billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware, including armoured vehicles and munitions needed to push back Russian forces.
But German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said that despite heightened expectations, “We still cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be, when it comes to the Leopard tank.”
“Today’s indecision is killing more of our people,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
“Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster,” he said.
Several allies echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in saying the tanks were essential to Ukraine’s fight with its much larger neighbour.
In a joint statement the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states urged Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now.
“This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly,” said a message tweeted by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics and endorsed by his Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts.
“Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard.”
In Berlin, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Federal Chancellery building calling for Germany to send tanks to Ukraine.
Berlin has been hesitant to send the Leopards or allow other nations to transfer them to Kyiv.
Reports earlier in the week indicated Germany would agree to do so only if the US provided its tanks as well. Washington has said providing its Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not feasible, citing difficulties in training and maintenance.
But expectations had grown ahead of Friday’s Ukraine Contact Group meeting of around 50 US-led countries that Germany would at least agree to let other countries operating Leopards transfer them to Kyiv’s army.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is currently visiting Kyiv, called on both countries to supply the machines.
“To the Germans: Send tanks to Ukraine because they need them. It is in your own national interest that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin loses in Ukraine.”
“To the (US President Joe) Biden Administration: Send American tanks so that others will follow our lead,” he said.
The pleas came as the Russian army said its troops had launched an offensive in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of an almost frozen front.
In its daily report Saturday, Moscow’s forces said they had carried out “offensive operations” in the region and claimed to have “taken more advantageous lines and positions”.
Russia also said it had held a training exercise on repelling air attacks in the Moscow region, using an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
Ukraine’s defence ministry reported 26 air strikes and 15 attacks from multiple-launch rocket systems Saturday.
“The enemy does not abandon its aggressive plans, focusing its main efforts on attempts to fully occupy the Donetsk region,” on Ukraine’s border with Russia, it said.
In Kyiv, Zelensky attended the funeral of his interior minister and other officials killed in a helicopter crash outside the capital Wednesday.
The seven coffins were hoisted into the echoing hall in central Kyiv by military pallbearers in full ceremonial dress, to the sound of a lone trumpet and a snare drum.
Denys Monastyrsky, one of Zelensky’s top aides, is the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die in the war that Russia launched on February 24, 2022.
Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska wore all black and carried floral tributes.
“Ukraine is losing its best sons and daughters every day,” Zelensky said in a statement later.
The cause of the crash that killed him and 13 others when the chopper fell near a kindergarten is still being investigated.
US officials said Ukraine still faced an uphill battle against Russian forces who occupy one-fifth of the country 11 months after invading.
But they spoke of a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the coming weeks to retake parts of its territory.
US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley pointed to the substantial amount of equipment — much of it armoured vehicles and artillery — that Ukraine was being pledged at Ramstein, as well as the large-scale training of its forces by allies.
“I do think it’s very possible for the Ukrainians to run a significant tactical or even operational-level offensive operation to liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible,” Milley said.
But the Kremlin warned Friday that Western tanks would make little difference on the battlefield.
“One should not exaggerate the importance of such supplies in terms of the ability to change something,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.