Germany announces $3 billion military aid package for Ukraine ahead of expected Zelenskyy visit
BERLIN (AP) — Germany will provide Ukraine with additional military aid worth more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition, the government said Saturday.
The announcement came on the eve of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's first visit to Germany since Russia invaded his country last year.
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that Berlin wanted to show with the latest package of arms “that Germany is serious in its support” for Ukraine.
“Germany will provide all the help it can, as long as it takes,” he said.
Zelenskyy's expected weekend visit — still not publicly confirmed by German officials for security reasons — is regarded in Berlin as a sign that relations between Ukraine and Germany have improved markedly after a rocky patch.
Kyiv has long been suspicious of Germany's reliance on Russian energy and support for the Nord Stream gas pipelines circumventing Ukraine, defended by then Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Her successor, Olaf Scholz, agreed to phase out Russian energy imports after the invasion but initially hesitated to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, fearing Germany could be drawn into the conflict.
With Washington, Warsaw and London more overtly supportive of Ukraine's efforts to defend itself, Berlin got the cold diplomatic shoulder from Kyiv.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was disinvited from Ukraine last year,prompting annoyance in Germany, which pointed out that it had given considerable financial aid to Kyiv and taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees. Scholz eventually visited Kyiv with French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders in June.
Though slow to provide military aid, Germany has since become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, crucially giving the green light for the delivery of modern battle tanks like its own Leopard 1 and 2, along with sophisticated anti-aircraft systems needed to fend off drone and missile attacks.
The new military aid package, first reported by German weekly Der Spiegel, includes 30 Leopard 1 A5 tanks, 20 Marder armored personnel carriers, more than 100 combat vehicles, 18 self-propelled Howitzers, 200 reconnaissance drones, four IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft systems and other air defense equipment. It comes after Ukrainian military commanders said their troops recaptured more territory from Russian forces near the eastern city of Bakhmut amid speculation about a possible counteroffensive by Kyiv.
The Ukrainian president would be arriving from Rome, where he was meeting Saturday with Pope Francis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.
Berlin police have imposed a security cordon throughout much of the capital's government district Sunday.
After meeting Scholz and other senior officials at the chancellery, the two leaders are expected to fly to the western city of Aachen for Zelenskyy to receive the International Charlemagne Prize awarded to him and the people of Ukraine.
Organizers say the award recognizes that their resistance against Russia's invasion is a defense "not just of the sovereignty of their country and the life of its citizens, but also of Europe and European values.”
Zelenskyy last visited Berlin in July 2021. He also attended the Munich Security Conference the following February, days before Russia launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine.
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Frank Jordans, The Associated Press