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Chancellor Olaf Scholz has admonished Germany’s allies for failing to deliver tanks to Ukraine after having spent months urging Berlin to do so.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the German leader who was long criticised for his hesitancy in arming Ukraine, was asked if he was now pushing other nations to provide the heavy weaponry they had promised.

Scholz replied: “That’s a question I have to ask to others, especially those who were so much urging [me] to act.”

The three-day gathering was opened by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who compared his country to the biblical David in a fight to the death with Russia’s Goliath.

“It’s not just about Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in his speech via video link. “The point is that Goliath must lose and there is no alternative to this.”

He said the west must pick up the pace of its support for Ukraine. “Delayed decisions are a resource that Putin’s dictatorship lives on.”

Scholz’s comments highlighted growing German frustration with its allies. The chancellor faced months of pressure to set up and lead a consortium of countries capable of supplying German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. But in the weeks after Berlin finally agreed to send 14 Leopard 2s, few other countries have committed any of their own stockpiles of the tank.

In his conference address, Scholz urged “all those who can supply main battle tanks to really do so”. He said German defence minister Boris Pistorius and foreign minister Annalena Baerbock would be using the Munich conference to encourage allies to fulfil their commitments on tanks.

Germany would, he added, “do what it can to make this decision easier for our partners — say by training Ukrainian soldiers here in Germany, or providing support in terms of supplies and logistics”.

In a further indication of international differences on Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that the west had failed to win backing from countries ranging from Africa to Latin America and Asia.

“I am struck by how we have lost the trust of the global south,” Macron said to an audience made up of top officials from both developed and developing countries. He argued that the world’s response to the war showed the need to rebalance the global order and make it more inclusive.

Macron called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “neocolonialist and imperialist” attack that “broke all taboos” and called on leaders of the global south to join the west in condemning the war.

While western countries have rallied to help Ukraine, many Asian, Latin American and African countries have been at best lukewarm in their support for Kyiv in what they see as a European war that is far from their daily concerns. The French president insisted that was not the case.

“To close your eyes [to the invasion] is to legitimise neocolonialism and imperialism around the world,” Macron told the conference. “It is a vision of the world that has broken all taboos, not only violating the UN charter . . . but also murders, rapes, war crimes and the systemic destruction of civilian infrastructure.”

He added that the global south would be needed to eventually seal a sustainable end to the conflict.

First, however, the west needed “to intensify our support and our efforts to the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and help them to launch a counter-offensive which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine”, Macron said.

More than 40 heads of state and 60 ministers are attending the so-called Davos of defence, which has also attracted the biggest US congressional delegation in the event’s history. Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, will be taking part in the event that runs until Sunday and is expected to focus heavily on the war in Ukraine and its implications for the global security order.

Last year’s conference was held just days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and world leaders used it to urge President Vladimir Putin to desist from his war plans — pleas that fell on deaf ears. No Russian officials have been invited this year.

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