Putin's war moves backfire as Germans finally lose patience – calls for 'robust answers'

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In a clear indication that patience with Russia’s belligerent approach is wearing thin, Mr Merz, the designated chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party suggested it was time to consider providing Kiev with “defensive weapons”. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been growing in recent years, especially given the fierce fighting in the Donbass region between Ukrainian troops and separatist rebels backed by Moscow.

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper, Mr Merz called for a “clear, robust answer to Putin”.

Specifically he said such an approach should include “the question of whether Ukraine should also be helped with defensive weapons to oppose such a threat”.

Mr Merz, who was narrowly defeated for the leadership for his party by Armin Laschet earlier this year, said Ukraine’s requests for such weapons were “without a doubt legitimate in view of the massive deployment of troops by the Russian army on its eastern border”.

Ukrainian government officials have appealed to Germany to provide them with equipment including older frigates, anti-aircraft guns and components for anti-ship missiles.

The newspaper suggested to Mr Merz NATO have opted against delivering deadly weapons including sniper rifles in addition to jammers for drone defence, as a result of objections by Germany and one other unnamed country.

Mr Merz said that if the reports were correct, it was “quite a burden”.

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However, the Greens in particular are pushing for a more robust approach, with current Minister of Economics, Robert Habeck calling for defensive weapons to be delivered to the country in May, naming among other things medical vehicles on which “a machine gun” could be mounted for defence.

Ukraine is already receiving material from the US, including anti-tank missiles of the “Javelin” type which were used in military drills this week.

Ukraine also has a deal in place with Britain to build warships.

The country has been especially vulnerable from its Black Sea coast since the illegal annexation of the Crimea.

This threat was highlighted earlier this year when Mr Putin ordered landing exercises on its Black Sea coast.

New satellite images captured by a US-based Maxar Technologies show that Russia has continued to build up its forces in annexed Crimea and near Ukraine in recent weeks while pressing the US for talks over security guarantees it is seeking.

The Kremlin reiterated on Friday that it reserves the right to move its own forces on Russian territory as it sees fit and that Western countries were carrying out provocative military manoeuvres near its borders.

US President Joe Biden and other leaders have claimed Moscow is weighing an attack on Ukraine as soon as next month, something Moscow has repeatedly denied.

The images released late on Thursday showed a base in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, packed with hundreds of armoured vehicles and tanks as of December 13.

A Maxar satellite image of the same base in October showed the base was half empty.

Maxar said a new brigade-level unit, comprised of several hundred armoured vehicles that include BMP-series infantry fighting vehicles, tanks, self-propelled artillery and air defence equipment, had arrived at the Russian garrison.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)



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