Russian air defense training as Germany debates tanks for Ukraine

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Russian air defense training as Germany debates tanks for Ukraine

Russia held an unprecedented training exercise to practice defending Moscow from air attacks Saturday, in the latest signal of Kremlin worries about strikes on the capital.

The exercise took place as the debate over Germany providing tanks to Ukraine escalated.

“In the Moscow region, a training session was held with the personnel of the anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Western Military District on repelling air attacks on important military industrial and administrative facilities,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The maneuvers involved 150 soldiers and an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, the statement said.

“As they marched, soldiers repelled an attack by a mock enemy sabotage group on a military convoy,” the statement said. “Under the cover of a smoke screen, the air defense convoy was able to get out of the attack and continue fulfilling its tasks.”

The exercise took place in the “Moscow region,” but the ministry did not say exactly where.

The Kremlin refused to comment on whether it is expecting air strikes on the capital, according to the Moscow Times, an independent online news site that publishes in English and Russian.

A former Russian president has boasted that "defeated Napoleon and Hitler."
The training is the latest signal of Russia’s worries about strikes on Moscow.
Getty Images

Russia has been hit with several drone attacks attributed to Kyiv, including one that reportedly blew up two nuclear bombers, as well as some strikes on border regions, since it invaded Ukraine 11 months ago, but so far no major combat has taken place in Russia.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president once considered a moderate but now fully behind Vladimir Putin’s war, boasted that the EU is remembering that it was Russia that “defeated Napoleon and Hitler.”

“Meaning, the Ukronazis and Western Europe are the direct heirs of those who fought against Russia,” Medvedev tweeted. “And the war against them is the new Patriotic one. The victory will be ours; like in 1812 and 1945.”

Medvedev, now the deputy chair of Putin’s Security Council, on Thursday had commented that “a nuclear power’s loss of a conventional war can lead to a nuclear one. Nuclear powers haven’t been defeated in major conflicts crucial for their destiny.”

He was mocking the conversation around the potential to defeat Russia at the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, Switzerland, where the global elite and powerful political leaders backed Ukraine and supported calls for sending more tanks and other weapons to aid their fight.

Medevdev’s comments came one day after Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he had a “frank discussion” with Western allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany about sending more weaponry, as calls mount from U.S. and European leaders for Berlin to send Leopard 2 tanks.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that no agreement had been made on Ukraine’s request for the tanks.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he had a "frank discussion" with Western allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he had a “frank discussion” with Western allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima

“We all cannot say today when a decision [on potentially sending Leopard tanks] will come and what it will look like,” Pistorius told reporters.

Pistorius said that he has instructed the German army to “review” how many tanks it could send so the country could “act quickly” once a decision is made by Chancellor Olaf Sholz.

Germany has become of Ukraine’s biggest weapons suppliers since the Russian invasion in February, although Sholz has garnered a reputation for dragging his feet on decisions to ratchet up the firepower.

“We have to speed it up,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told officials gathered in Ramstein. “It’s in your power.”

So far, only the UK has agreed to send tanks to Ukraine.

Zelensky’s call was echoed by one of his advisers, Mykhailo Podolyak, who made an urgent plea for additional weaponry and said that the hesitancy to do so is costing lives.

“You’ll help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realize that there is no other option to end the war except the defeat of [Russia],” Podolyak tweeted Saturday. “But today’s indecision is killing more of our people. Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster.”

Other NATO counties have also piled on the call for German to provide tanks, including Poland and the Balkan states, all of which were once subjected by the Soviet Union.

“This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly,” Latvian FM Edgars Rinkevics said on behalf of Lithuanian and Estonian FMs.

“We, the Lithuanian, Lativian and Estonian Foreign Ministers, call on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now,” Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis likewise tweeted. “This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and restore peace in Europe quickly. Germany as the leading European power has special responsibility in this regard.”

U.S. officials have also been pushing for more aid to Ukraine as Russia gears up for the next phase of the conflict.

“This is a crucial moment,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at Ramstein. “Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to re-equip,” he warned, adding: “this is not a moment to slow down — it’s a time to dig deeper.” 

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