The United Kingdom has pledged to supply more than a dozen main battle tanks to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s invading forces.
Moscow has reacted furiously, saying any units the UK plans to send will “burn” and do nothing to change the outcome of the nearly year-long war.
The British 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?
The Ukrainian government has repeatedly called for additional weapons – including main battle tanks – from its Western allies to bolster its efforts to push Russian troops out of the country.
Until now, Ukraine has mainly relied on Soviet-era T-72 tank variants.
Battle tanks designed by NATO countries – as produced by the UK and Germany – would provide Kiev’s armed forces with better protection and more accurate firepower.
However, they wouldn’t provide an immediate boost in terms of combat capability, as Ukraine’s armed forces would need to be trained to use tanks supplied by Western allies – a process likely to take several weeks, if not longer.
Which countries have promised tanks?
The UK confirmed on Monday that it would be sending 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine in the coming weeks, as well as other advanced artillery support.
Of Kiev’s other allies, Poland has said it would be happy to send German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, but would need Berlin’s approval under rules governing the re-export of German military equipment .
Finland has also raised the possibility of supplying Ukraine with Leopard tanks, but said it depends on Germany’s lead.
Latvia, meanwhile, urged Kiev’s allies to provide it with “all necessary support”.
“Ukraine should have everything [the] necessary weapons … to withstand 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 main battle tanks to Ukraine, saying such units should only be delivered to Kiev if there is an agreement between key 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 permission.
The US operates thousands of M1 Abrams tanks built 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 supply Ukraine with its own Leclerc tanks.
Earlier this month, the US said it would send dozens of Bradley armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine, as Germany and France also promised to send armored vehicles.
A resolution on the Leopard 2 tanks could be reached Friday, when Ukraine’s allies will hold talks in Germany about bolstering military support for Ukraine.
The meeting in Ramstein comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under increasing pressure to allow the export of Leopard 2 tanks.
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, whose economy ministry is responsible for approving defense exports, said on Thursday that Berlin should not stand in the way of countries that own such units and want to supply them to Kiev.
How has Russia responded?
The Kremlin has said the tanks the UK wants to send to Ukraine “will burn”.
“She [the UK] are using this country as a tool to further their anti-Russian goals,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday when asked about the move.
“These tanks… will burn like the rest,” he said, adding the new supplies would not change the situation on the ground in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a pro-Kremlin presenter on state television channel Rossiya 1 said the UK had “de facto entered the war” with its move to supply the units.
“I now consider Britain a legitimate target for us,” said Vladimir Solovyev.
Will tanks make a difference in war?
With Russian troops reinforcing their positions in the occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, perhaps preparing for another offensive in the coming months, main battle tanks would provide Ukraine with a means to better defend itself and potentially make breakthroughs on the battlefield.
Experts from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British think tank, said last week it would take around 100 tanks to have “any significant effect on the fighting”.
“This would replenish Kiev’s tank fleet, which has been subject to wear and tear, and increase its capabilities,” the IISS said.
“While politically noteworthy, providing a small number would really only be a symbolic gesture,” it added.