Seven German self-propelled Howitzer 2000s arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday, marking the first delivery of German heavy weaponry to reach the country since the Russian invasion began almost four months ago.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht on Twitter for the weapons, while Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, also expressed his gratitude.
Melnyk however said Kiev hoped "this was only the first important step in strengthening the defence capabilities of the Ukrainian army," and called on the German government to keep the deliveries coming.
"The German defence industry is ready to produce 100 new self-propelled Howitzers for Ukraine at short notice. We very much hope that Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the German Security Council will approve the relevant request," Melnyk said.
The Howitzer 2000 is the Bundeswehr's most modern piece of artillery. Resembling a huge tank, it can hit targets at a distance of 40 kilometres.
Reznikov described the delivery as "an example of international cooperation in support of Ukraine," adding that he appreciated the efforts of the German and Dutch defence ministers.
The German government has been criticized in recent weeks, initially for hesitating to pledge heavy weaponry and later for its perceived sluggishness in delivering the weapons.
Berlin insisted this was due to required changes to defence industry protocols and making sure Ukrainian soldiers received the proper training to use the weapons in question.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed the importance of continued weapons deliveries from the West in his Tuesday night video address, saying: "The lives of thousands of people directly depend on the speed of our partners."
Zelensky also renewed his calls for further EU sanctions on Russia, arguing for Brussels to impose a seventh sanctions package on Moscow as soon as possible. "Russia must feel the growing pressure of going to war and of its aggressive anti-European policy."
Polish President Andrzej Duda meanwhile announced Poland had supplied more than 240 tanks and 100 armoured vehicles to Ukraine, bringing Warsaw's contribution to Ukraine's military to over $1.6 billion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced the delivery of the first S-500 air defence systems to the Russian military on Tuesday. The S-500, which has a range of 500 to 600 kilometres, is capable of shooting down satellites and hypersonic weapons, according to the Russian military.
On the ground, Ukrainian forces were still managing to prevent the Russian army from launching a major new offensive from the Black Sea, according to British intelligence.
Attacking from the sea had been part of Russia's original invasion plan, but Ukraine had "largely neutralized Russia's ability to establish sea control," the British Ministry of Defence said in an update Tuesday.
Black Sea gas platforms
On June 17, Ukrainian forces succeeded in attacking a Russian ship whose likely mission was to bring weapons and personnel to Russian occupied Snake Island off Ukraine's Black Sea coast, the British ministry said.
Seven people were still missing following a Ukrainian attack on three Black Sea gas platforms on Monday, Russian Senator Olga Kovotidi said on Tuesday in remarks reported by Interfax. Three injured people were reportedly receiving hospital treatment following the attack.
A total of 109 people are believed to have been on the platforms when the attack happened. The rigs, originally Ukrainian, were occupied by Russian troops in March 2014 following their annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
On land, Russian troops continued their attempt to seize parts of eastern Ukraine. In Kharkiv, at least four people were killed and 11 were injured by Russian missile attacks, the region's governor said on Telegram.
Shelling also killed three civilians near the Russian border in Udy and an 8-year-old girl in Besruky near Derhachi, Kharkiv region governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
However, Zelensky said Tuesday that the region surrounding the Russian-occupied city of Kherson was gradually being recaptured by Ukrainian forces.
Russia and Ukraine meanwhile traded accusations of blame for the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports, with Russia's Defence Ministry accusing Kiev of blockading a total of 70 ships from 16 countries in its ports, claiming the vessels were unable to leave port due to shelling and the Ukrainian navy's mining of its own waters.
Ukraine - one of the world's largest grain exporters - criticized Russia for preventing grain exports with its own naval blockade of Ukrainian ports, thus contributing to the global food crisis.