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BERLIN/KYIV: The United States said on Wednesday it would supply Ukraine with 31 of its most advanced battle tanks after Germany broke a taboo with a similar announcement, moves hailed by Kyiv as a potential turning point in its battle against Russia’s invasion.

The US decision to deliver M1 Abram tanks helped break a diplomatic logjam with Germany over how to best to help Kyiv in its war with Russia, which hours earlier had condemned Berlin’s decision to provide Leopard 2 tanks as a dangerous provocation.

Washington had been wary of the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain Abrams tanks but had to change tack to persuade Germany to send its more easily operated Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Western allies want to help Ukraine prepare for a possible spring counter-offensive to try to drive Russia out of territory in the south and east of Ukraine it has seized since invading its neighbour 11 months ago.

The White House said Biden spoke on Wednesday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and prime ministers Giorgia Meloni of Italy and Rishi Sunak of Britain on their nations’ close cooperation in support for Kyiv.

Kyiv has been calling for months for Western main battle tanks that would give its forces greater firepower, protection and mobility to break through Russian front lines and potentially reclaim occupied territory.

Germany, previously the West’s holdout amid deep reluctance to export offensive weapons given its Nazi past, said it would send an initial company of 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks from its own stocks and also approve shipments by allied European states.

The eventual aim would be to supply Ukraine with two battalions of Leopards, typically comprising three or four companies each, the first to arrive within three or four months.

“Germany will always be at the forefront when it comes to supporting Ukraine,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the German parliament, to applause.

He told a press conference later that Germany would send further military aid to Ukraine beyond the Leopards delivery, including for example air defence systems, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers.

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