Kyiv, Ukraine ( Associated Press) – Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands said Tuesday they plan to send about 100 refurbished Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.
Germany agreed last month to allow shipments of more modern Leopard 2 tanks.
In a joint statement, the defense ministers of the three countries said the shipment of the Leopard 1s was part of “efforts to support Ukraine in its effort to counter Russian aggression”.
“It will significantly increase military potential for the restoration of the violated territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes hit more civilian targets in Ukraine, setting fire to a hospital and damaging five apartment buildings, local officials said on Tuesday.
Ukrainian officials reported an increase in Moscow troops in the east, around the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Kyiv suspects an imminent new offensive.
The Kharkiv Oblast State Emergency Service said in an online statement that a fire broke out Monday night at a hospital in the northeastern city of Vochansk after shelling.
It said that apart from the two-storey municipal hospital, several fires broke out in the city due to the attack.
According to officials, emergency teams evacuated eight civilians from the area before the fire was extinguished, causing no casualties.
The Kharkiv area was captured by the Russians after a full-scale offensive that began on 24 February. But Ukraine regained control last year after retaliatory strikes.
The anticipated Russian offensive may seek to regain territory that Moscow then lost.
Ukrainian authorities expect new attacks in the country’s east and south, in an effort to secure territories illegally occupied by the Kremlin and where it says its rule is welcome.
The Kyiv military said Russian forces were “regrouping” in their effort to break through Ukrainian lines in five sectors in the east and northeast.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that Moscow focused its efforts on the towns of Liman, Bakhmut, Avdeevka and Novopavlivka in eastern Donetsk province, as well as Kupiansk in Kharkiv.
In Donetsk, the Kremlin continued shelling Vuhladar, a mining town that has been one of its major targets, according to Ukraine’s presidential office, which said five residential buildings in the town had been destroyed, including one built before the war. There were 14,000 inhabitants.
According to provincial governor Pavlo Kirilenko, Donetsk has seen a significant presence of Russian troops in recent days.
“The transfer of units of the Russian army continues day and night. The (Russian) bombardment is intensifying, the pressure from the Russians is intensifying every day,” he said in a statement to Ukrainian television.
Russia is also preparing a major offensive on Luhansk, north of Donetsk, its governor Serhiy Haidai said on television.
It added that there was a “huge” increase in the number of Russian attacks on the area on Monday and into the night.
Haidai said, “The occupiers are looking for weak points and have brought a lot of equipment and thousands of soldiers to the front line.”
A dozen cities and towns in Kharkiv have also come under Russian shelling in the past 24 hours, according to the president’s office.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his concern about a possible escalation of fighting as the winter ends.
He said in a speech Monday night that “the prospects for peace are steadily shrinking” and “the potential for further escalation and bloodshed is growing.”
The battlefield reversal has put the Kremlin on the spot, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to bolster popular support for the war. One of the main objectives is expected to be gaining control of the eastern industrial region of Donbass on the Russian border.
But some military analysts are skeptical about Moscow’s ability to launch a new major offensive in the coming weeks. Both Ukraine and Russia continue to train new troops and stockpile weapons.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said in a report on Tuesday that the Kremlin needed “undermanned and inexperienced units to achieve unrealistic goals due to political and professional pressure.”
“Russian leaders are likely to continue to demand crushing progress,” he added. “It is unlikely that Russia will be able to muster the forces necessary to substantially influence the outcome of the war in the coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, the bombing kept the Ukrainian civilian population in some areas of the country under pressure.
Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement on Tuesday that Russia fired six missiles and carried out two dozen airstrikes, as well as 75 attacks on civilian targets in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Kherson in the past 24 hours.
About 60,000 homes were without water after a Russian shelling near the Zaporizhia nuclear plant cut off power to a local pumping station, according to officials.