The UK has pledged to supply more than a dozen main battle tanks to Ukraine as it continues to fight against Russian invasion forces.
Moscow reacted with fury, saying any troops Britain planned to send would “burn” and would do nothing to change the outcome of its nearly year-long war.
The UK announcement is likely to increase pressure on Germany to allow the export of German-made tanks to Ukraine, as several European countries await Berlin’s approval.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why is Ukraine calling for tanks?
Ukraine’s government has repeatedly begged for additional weapons – including battle tanks – from its Western allies to boost its efforts to push Russian forces out of the country.
Until now, Ukraine has primarily relied on Soviet-era variants of the T-72 tank.
Battle tanks designed by NATO countries – such as those produced in Great Britain and Germany – would give Kiev’s forces better protection and more accurate firepower.
However, they would not provide an immediate boost to combat capabilities as Ukrainian forces would have to be trained to use all the tanks supplied by Western allies – a process that is likely to take at least several weeks, if not longer.
Which countries promised tanks?
Britain confirmed on Monday that it will send 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, as well as other advanced artillery support in the coming weeks.
Among Kiev’s other allies, Poland has said it wants to send German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, but that requires approval from Berlin under rules governing the re-export of German military equipment.
Finland also raised the possibility of supplying Ukraine with Leopard tanks, but said it depended on Germany’s leadership.
Latvia, meanwhile, called on Kyiv’s allies to provide it with “all necessary support.”
“Ukraine should have everything.” [the] necessary weapon … to resist this offensive. Therefore, all tanks should be given to Ukraine whenever possible,” Latvian President Egils Levits told Al Jazeera on Monday.
Are there divisions in the West’s response?
Germany has so far resisted supplying Ukraine with battle tanks, saying such units should only be delivered to Kiev if there is an agreement between its main allies, particularly the United States.
Re-exporting Leopards requires approval from the German government, so other countries with such tanks would not be able to send them to Ukraine without it.
The US uses thousands of M1 Abrams tanks made by General Dynamics, but they are considered unsuitable for Ukraine because they are powered by gas turbine engines.
Another key Ukrainian ally, France, has not said whether it would be willing to provide Ukraine with any of its Leclerc tanks.
Earlier this month, the US said it would send dozens of Bradley armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine, as Germany and France also pledged to send armored vehicles.
A resolution on the Leopard 2 tanks could be reached on Friday, when Ukraine’s allies are scheduled to hold talks in Germany on boosting military support for Ukraine.
The Ramstein meeting comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz faces mounting pressure to allow the export of Leopard 2 tanks.
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, whose economy ministry is in charge of approving defense exports, said Thursday that Berlin should not stand in the way of countries that possess such units and want to deliver them to Kiev.
How did Russia react?
The Kremlin has announced that the tanks that Great Britain plans to send to Ukraine will “burn”.
“They [the UK] they are using this country as a tool to achieve their anti-Russian goals,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday when asked about the move.
“These tanks … will burn like the others,” he said, adding that the new supplies would not change the situation on the ground in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a pro-Kremlin presenter on state television channel Russia 1 said the UK had “de facto entered the war” with its move to supply the troops.
“I consider that Britain is now a legitimate target for us,” said Vladimir Solovyov.
Will tanks make a difference in the war?
With Russian troops consolidating their positions in occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, and possibly preparing for a new offensive in the coming months, battle tanks would give Ukraine a means to better defend itself and potentially make a breakthrough on the battlefield.
Experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British think tank, said last week that around 100 tanks would be needed to have “any significant impact on the fighting”.
“This would replenish Kiev’s depleted tank fleet and increase its capabilities,” the IISS said.
“Although politically significant, providing a small number would actually be only a symbolic gesture,” it added.