President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Germany as a “true friend and reliable ally” after it announced it would provide 2.7 billion euros in additional military aid to Ukraine and build an arms factory in the country.
Zelensky’s visit to Germany on Sunday, his first since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, marks a significant improvement in bilateral relations after Kiev, at the start of the war, accused Germany of dithering in its support for Ukraine.
Zelensky met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other officials a day after he visited Rome to meet Italian leaders and Pope Francis. Zelensky is due in Paris later on Sunday for a surprise meeting with President Emmanuel Macron. This is the second such visit of the Ukrainian president to France, who also visited Paris in February for a joint meeting with Macron and Schultz.
Germany, which decided in January to send its Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, announced on Saturday that it would supply an additional 2.7 billion euros worth of weapons to Ukraine. According to the German Defense Ministry, Berlin has provided 4.2 billion euros in military aid since 2022.
German heavy arms manufacturer Rheinmetall announced on Saturday that it will build a tank repair and maintenance plant in Ukraine in a joint venture with state-owned defense group Ukroboronprom.
Deliveries will include 18 self-propelled howitzers, four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, 30 older MBT Leopard 1 tanks, 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, as well as artillery ammunition. In a Twitter post, Zelensky called the deal “the largest military aid package since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion” and said that German equipment “saves Ukrainian lives and brings us closer to victory”.
Reflecting the improved relations, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Germany would provide assistance “for as long as possible” to end Russia’s “war against the Ukrainian people”. In April last year, Steinmeier canceled a visit to Ukraine after admitting he would not be welcome, although the German president met his Ukrainian counterpart in Kiev in October.
Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger said Saturday that the German arms maker will “co-produce selected Rheinmetall products in Ukraine” with Ukroboronprom.
On Sunday, Zelensky and Schultz traveled to the western German city of Aachen, where the Ukrainian president and people were presented with an award honoring achievements in promoting European unity.
Zelensky’s overnight trip to Berlin came as Russian forces launched air strikes on Ternopil, a western city home to electronic music duo Tvorchy who were representing Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest finals at the time. Last year won by the Ukrainian Kalush Orchestra, this year Eurovision was held in Liverpool in the UK instead of Ukraine due to security concerns.
Fighting has intensified around Bakhmut, the eastern city that Russian forces have been trying to seize for more than nine months, with Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov saying on Sunday that one of its cults had been killed in the city and another on a separate front. battle.
Zelensky arrived in Berlin after a trip to Rome, where he met Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who said Rome supported Kiev’s 10-point peace plan.
Italy, which signed a joint declaration with Zelensky in support of Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union and NATO military alliance, has contributed nearly €1 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the start of the conflict, including Samp-T air defense systems.
Zelensky met Pope Francis, who was criticized by some Ukrainians for his reluctance to openly condemn Russia for its massive invasion. Pope Francis surprised many when he told reporters in early May that he had taken part in a secret “peace mission,” about which neither Kiev nor Moscow said they knew anything.
While Zelensky said he was grateful for the pope’s concern for his plight More than 19,000 Ukrainian children And transferred to Russia, Pope Francis also called for holding Russia accountable and supporting Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan. The International Criminal Court earlier this year announced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing the forced deportation of Ukrainian children.
“There is no equality between the victim and the aggressor,” said the Ukrainian president. I also talked about our peace equation as the only effective algorithm for a just peace. I proposed to join its implementation.
Additional reporting by Giuliana Riccuzzi in Rome
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