Ukrainian PM visits Berlin to look for more weapons

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Berlin (AFP) – On Sunday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal expressed hope that Germany would become a leading player in helping Kyiv strengthen its air defenses as he sought more heavy weapons for Kyiv from Berlin.

Shmygal is the first high-level Ukrainian official to visit Germany in months, a sign of easing tensions between Kyiv and Berlin after a difficult period.

Germany’s stuttered initial response over providing military support to Kyiv following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had caused dismay.

But Shmygal acknowledged during his visit that Germany had since stepped up its military aid considerably, with heavy armaments such as the 2000 tank howitzer or MARS rocket launchers all “performing well on the battlefield”.

The Iris-T air defense system is expected to be delivered in the fall, he said, adding that Ukraine “hopes that Germany will become one of the leaders in the Ukrainian air defense development process “.

In a speech on his vision for Europe on Monday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he saw Germany shouldering a “special responsibility” to help Ukraine strengthen its artillery and air defense systems.

Defense ministers from NATO allies are expected to arrive in Germany on Thursday for a US-led meeting to coordinate Ukraine’s military needs.

Ahead of the talks, Scholz stressed Germany’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, but added that this would be done in coordination with “our friends and allies”.

‘Solidarity’

The Ukrainian Prime Minister had made the first leg of his trip to Berlin a meeting with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, where Shmygal said he “discussed the military situation, the strengthening of sanctions and the need to supply weapons to the ‘Ukraine”.

Shmygal also thanked Germany “for its solidarity with the Ukrainians and its support”.

Germany “will continue to stand reliably alongside Ukraine,” Steinmeier assured Shmygal, according to the German president’s spokeswoman.

The cordial readings of their talks marked a marked change in tone from previous months, when a row erupted in April over Steinmeier’s offer to travel to Ukraine was rebuffed.

Steinmeier, a former foreign minister in Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, had been shunned during his years-long policy of détente towards Moscow – something he admitted was a mistake after the outbreak of war.

The German SPD has always championed close ties with Russia, born out of the “Ostpolitik” policy of rapprochement and dialogue with the then Soviet Union, devised by former SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s.

This tradition contributed to Germany’s initial refusal of any arms deliveries to Kyiv, with the previous decision to send only 5,000 helmets arousing anger and derision.

But Scholz’s coalition, which also includes the Greens and the liberal FDP, has since made an about-face.

Howitzers, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles are among the weapons that have arrived in Kyiv.

Heavier weapons such as IRIS-T anti-aircraft systems, rocket launchers mounted on pick-up trucks and anti-drone equipment are to be the subject of a new military aid program worth more than of 500 million euros.

Ukrainian soldiers are currently being trained in Germany to use Leopard anti-aircraft tanks.

On Sunday, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Germany of waging a “hybrid war” against Russia, justifying the halting of gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Europe.

“First, Germany is a hostile country. Second, it has imposed sanctions on the entire Russian economy…and it is delivering lethal weapons to Ukraine,” Medvedev said in support of his statement. statement in a message posted on Telegram.

After Berlin, Shmygal will travel to Brussels, where he will join European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell at a meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Council.

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