A trio of European allies pledged missiles and artillery for Ukraine Thursday, as President Volodymyr Zelensky said he expected "strong decisions" on further Western arms supplies on the eve of a key aid meeting.
The new promises flew in the face of a Kremlin warning against an "extremely dangerous" escalation if the West – long fearful of provoking direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia – sent longer-range weapons to Kyiv.
As Ukraine ramped up calls for such weapons, as well as tanks, ahead of Friday's key meeting in Ramstein, Germany, Britain announced it would send 600 Brimstone missiles to the war-torn country.
Denmark said it would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzers while Sweden promised its Archer artillery system, a modern mobile howitzer requested by Kyiv for months.
Military support to Ukraine will be discussed by representatives of around 50 countries in Ramstein, including all 30 Nato members.
Although Germany has been cautious about providing heavy weapons for Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is facing mounting pressure within Europe to authorise exports of German-made Leopard tanks of ahead of the meeting.
Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told AFP that "some countries will send" Leopard tanks to Ukraine, promising "more news tomorrow" at the talks.
And Berlin left the door open to letting allies supply Ukraine with the tanks, saying late Thursday it would "become clear in the next few hours or tomorrow morning".
Visiting Kyiv, EU chief Charles Michel said he believed that tanks "must be delivered".
As the pledges came in, senior Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said it was "time to stop trembling at (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin and take the final step".
"Ukraine needs tanks; tanks – the key to end war properly," Podolyak said on Twitter.
'Whole new level'
Looking ahead to the German talks, Zelensky said late Thursday that Kyiv expects "strong decisions" and "a powerful military support package from the US".
At the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Scholz told US congressmen that Germany would supply heavy tanks to Ukraine if the US sent tanks too, a senior US lawmaker told AFP Thursday.
"It's basically that it's got to be the US and Germany," said Gregory Meeks, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Zelensky told Davos via video-link that "there are times where we shouldn't hesitate."
"When someone says 'I will give tanks if someone else will also share tanks'... I don't think this is the right strategy to go with."
Western partners fear that Ukraine could use long-range weapons to hit deep inside Russian territory or Crimea – a peninsula Moscow annexed in 2014 – despite Kyiv promising it would not do so.
The Kremlin warned against escalating the conflict to a "whole new level" if the West meets Ukraine's latest calls for longer-range weapons.
'This is extremely dangerous'
"Potentially, this is extremely dangerous," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"It will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security," he added.
Earlier this month, the United States promised to send its powerful Bradley armoured fighting vehicles, while France has offered its highly mobile AMX-10 RCs – weapons that Western nations had previously considered off-limits.
Russian 'local offensive'
Weapons already provided by the West have been credited with helping Ukraine win back territory in recent months.
Air raid sirens wailed on Thursday in Kyiv and nationwide, a day after a helicopter crash outside the capital killed the interior minister and 13 others near a kindergarten.
The crash killed Denys Monastyrsky, the 42-year-old interior minister and a key aide to Zelensky.
He was the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die since Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb 24 last year.
Zelensky said the investigation into the accident was ongoing.