German tanks are also not a threat to ?Russian territory,? the chancellor has said
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has claimed that a "consensus" was reached with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky that Kiev will not use Western weapons, including German Leopard tanks, to stage attacks on Russian territory. The West, however, still considers Crimea and four other new Russian regions to be parts of Ukraine.
In an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper published on Saturday night, Chancellor Scholz once again placed all of the blame for the conflict on Moscow, arguing that Russia's "unprovoked aggression" justified the collective West's intervention with military aid to protect the "European peace order."
"Together with our allies, we are giving battle tanks to Ukraine so that they can defend themselves," Scholz argued. He added that Berlin "carefully weighed every arms shipment, closely coordinating... first and foremost with America."
Scholz pledged 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine from the Bundeswehr's own stocks last month, after the US promised to send some of its own M1 Abrams tanks sometime later this year. In the interview, the German leader dismissed any concerns about his country's weaponry once again being used against Russian soldiers as "abstruse historical comparisons."
At a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of victory at the Battle of Stalingrad on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was "unbelievable but true - we are once again threatened with German Leopard tanks, with crosses on their hull. And once again seeking to battle Russia in Ukraine with the help of Hitler's followers, the Banderites."
"Those seeking to defeat Russia on the battlefield apparently do not realize that a modern war with Russia would be entirely different for them," he added, promising a response that goes beyond armored vehicles.
"No, Putin didn't threaten me or Germany," Scholz said regarding phone conversations with the Russian leader when the interviewer brought up recent claims by ex-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Kremlin stated that Johnson had either deliberately lied about a "missile threat" or simply did not understand what Putin was talking about.
When asked if there is any kind of agreement with President Vladimir Zelensky that Western weapons will only be used on Ukrainian territory, Scholz said there is a "consensus." He did not elaborate on whether there is a consensus regarding which territories are considered Ukrainian.
The US has also reportedly provided military aid to Ukraine on condition that it will not be used to strike targets in Russia. However, American officials have said this restriction does not apply to Crimea and other new Russian territories, and has repeatedly stated that Kiev is free to pick its own targets.
Crimea and the city of Sevastopol joined Russia in 2014 following a referendum. The Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, did the same last year. Kiev has dismissed the referendums as a "sham."
On Wednesday, Putin tasked the military with "eliminating any possibility" of Ukrainian strikes against Russia. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov clarified that this includes the territories that Ukraine still considers to be its own, saying that Moscow will "push back" the Ukrainian troops to a range at which they will not be a threat, and that "the longer range the weapons supplied to the Kiev regime have, the further the troops will need to be moved."