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Russia Claims Advances in Ukraine’s South as Allies Stall on Tank Deliveries

Moscow said its forces advanced in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region as Kyiv’s Western allies continued pressuring Berlin to allow deliveries of German-made tanks to Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that Russian troops had advanced in the partially occupied region and taken more advantageous lines and positions. The ministry’s spokesman, Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, didn’t provide further details.

It was the second time in two days that Moscow has said its forces were advancing in the south of Ukraine. President

Vladimir Putin

 claimed the region as part of Russia’s territory in September despite continued fighting, and its defense is a priority for the Kremlin.

As in the eastern Donetsk region, which Mr. Putin has also claimed and where Moscow says it has taken several towns in recent weeks, Ukrainian officials said there was fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region but didn’t say any territory had been lost.

The claimed advances come as Russia has shown signs of turning the tide in the war after a string of losses in the early fall. Mr. Putin’s mobilization drive of 300,000 reservists along with the recruitment of inmates from across Russia’s vast prison system into the Wagner paramilitary group, whose forces now total about 50,000 in Ukraine, have shifted the war of attrition in Moscow’s favor. 

The Russian claims add urgency to Ukraine’s pleas for more heavy weaponry from the West, particularly modern battle tanks. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife, Olena, offer their condolences during the funeral of the country’s interior minister.


sergei supinsky/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

German Chancellor

Olaf Scholz

has, so far, resisted growing pressure to allow the country’s Leopard 2 tanks—among the most common in Europe—to be transferred to Ukraine. German officials initially said they wouldn’t approve sending Leopards unless the U.S. provided its own Abrams tanks, which the U.S. has so far declined to do, saying they are too difficult to maintain. Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, has told German television that German and U.S. tanks don’t need to be provided at the same time and indicated that his government was still considering what to do.

Mr. Scholz was in France on Sunday, where he met with French President

Emmanuel Macron

to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty between the two countries, which provided the foundation for a new era of cooperation in Europe. Speaking at ​​Sorbonne University in Paris, Mr. Scholz said that Germany would back Ukraine for as long as necessary, according to local media. Later in the day, ministers from the two countries were scheduled to hold a joint cabinet meeting, with aid for Ukraine among the agenda items. 

Drobysheve, eastern Ukraine, has been hit hard by recent fighting.


oleg petrasyuk/Shutterstock

Over the past week, more North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have openly called for Germany to send the tanks.  

The British government has already announced plans to send its Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv. On Sunday morning,

James Cleverly,

the British foreign secretary, said that Ukrainian officials had been telling him that tanks were what they needed to push back Russians in the country’s occupied eastern and southern regions. 

“I have been talking with my international counterparts about the provision of military equipment, particularly the Leopard 2 tank, which is an incredibly effective piece of equipment,” Mr. Cleverly said, speaking on Sky News. “I will keep having those conversations with our NATO allies and friends to facilitate the donation of the best military equipment to Ukraine.”

A crater left by a Russian missile strike in Bilokuzmynivka, eastern Ukraine.



Write to Evan Gershkovich at evan.gershkovich@wsj.com

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