Major summit fails to green light Ukraine tank aid

STORY: Ukraine's Western allies are announcing billions of dollars of new aid and equipment for Kyiv, but a major summit of the powers at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday has failed to bring a much-anticipated decision on whether to donate German-built tanks to the war effort.

And, Germany's government is denying that it's blocking such a move.

This is near Bakhmut, in Ukraine on the same day. It's where one of the war's most grinding battles has been waging for months, and where Reuters met Viktor, a Ukrainian soldier.

Asked about the summit, he tells us, "Look our military hardware dates back to the 1960s while theirs," meaning the Russians, "dates back to the 1980s." So the introduction of more modern armor makes a real difference, he says, and compares their Soviet-era machines to "coffins."

This was Germany's new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, at the Ramstein summit, and Ukraine's President Zelenskiy, calling in remotely:

PISTORIUS: "We don’t fear anything. We have just a responsibility for our population in Germany and in Europe and we have to balance all the pros and cons before we decide things like that, just like that. This is nothing else. And I’m very sure that there will be a decision in a short time but I don’t know when and I don’t know how the decision will look.”

ZELENSKIY: "You can start this policy today. It is in your power to make a Ramstein of tanks, not to bargain about different numbers of tanks, but to open a principal supply."

U.S. Secretary Lloyd Austin, urging allies to dig deeper:

"Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to re-equip. This is not a moment to slow down."

At question is a German-built tank called the Leopard 2, which is operated by several European countries and highly coveted by Ukraine. It's considered one of the best out there.

For example: Analysts have told Reuters that, compared to the American Abrams, its counterpart, the Leopard's fuel consumption is far more economic - which makes it better suited to the realities of Ukraine's battlefield supply lines.

Germany's government says its ready to move quickly on delivery on the vehicles but that it needs consensus among the allies. It's not clear where the discord is. Several countries have said they are waiting for Germany to lift its veto power on exporting the vehicle.

Berlin is also cautious about further provoking Russia into a direct conflict with NATO.

The only Western country supplying tanks to Ukraine right now is the UK, 14 of them, although many have donated artillery, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles.

Meanwhile, back in Bakhmut, Viktor the soldier says the introduction of more Western tanks would give troops a major morale boost.

When they enter the battlefield, the Russians "look at us like we're kamikaze fighters" he says, "because we may not come back."

A report in Germany's Der Spiegel newspaper Friday said that German intelligence believes Ukraine is taking losses near Bakhmut in the triple digits every day, that Berlin is alarmed at the casualty rate, and that Russian forces there are being used like cannon fodder.