Germany pledges $4b in military aid as Zelensky makes surprise visit to Berlin

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London: Volodymyr Zelensky heaped praise on Germany as a true friend and reliable ally after Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced it would almost-double its military aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion to €2.7 billion ($4.4 billion).

Scholz hosted the Ukrainian president in Berlin for his first visit to Germany since the start of the war that exposed the enormous dependency Europe’s largest economy had on Russian gas and caused international humiliation when the government initially only offered to send Ukraine helmets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Aachen, Germany, where he accepted the International Charlemagne Prize, awarded to him and the people of Ukraine on Sunday, May 14.Credit: AP

This prompted Scholz’s much-lauded Zeitenwende speech, which promised a turnaround in Germany’s post-war pacifist culture although the chancellor has come under criticism for making only slow progress on his commitment.

This has played into Berlin’s testy relationship with Kyiv and was behind the public pressure from NATO allies, including Britain and the United States, for Germany to lift its weight in support of Ukraine and European security.

In a show of the improved ties, Scholz and Zelensky referred to each other as “Dear Volodymyr” and “Dear Olaf,” respectively during their joint news conference in Berlin on Sunday following Germany’s announcement.

Scholz said Germany would support Ukraine for “as long as necessary” but did not comment on Zelensky’s renewed plea for his country to join NATO, which Germany has traditionally opposed.

Zelensky, centre, talks to the crowd in Aachen, surrounded by, front from left, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Roberta Metsola, President of the EU Parliament.Credit: AP

Zelensky told Scholz that Germany was the second-largest contributor to Ukraine behind the United States and was saving Ukrainian lives.

“I think we’re going to work on making Germany supporter number one,” Zelensky joked before praising the German leader.

“Chancellor Scholz you have shown leadership … and you give all of us the opportunity to make the world a safer place.

“The more leadership Germany shows, the better for the world.”

Germany’s Ministry of Defence said that the further military aid would include: 18 wheeled howitzers, artillery ammunition, guided missiles for air defence systems, four IRIS-T SLMInfra Red Imaging System Tail Surface Launched Medium Rangefire units, twelve IRIS-T SLS launch devices, battle and infantry fighting vehicles consisting of 30 Leopard 1 A5 and 20 Marders, more than 100 armoured combat vehicles and 200 drones for reconnaissance operations.

The weapons come ahead of Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive against Russia, which Zelensky has said he still needs more time and the delivery of promised weapons before launching.

Zelensky said that on his tour of European capitals, he was forming a fighter-jet coalition to obtain the air supremacy he has been seeking from allies since Vladimir Putin’s tanks rolled into the country in February last year.

He visited Italy on Saturday, meeting with Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni as well as the President.

Zelensky on Sunday evening touched down in Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron but first travelled with Scholz to Aachen – the first German city to be liberated from the Nazis by the allies to be awarded the 2023 International Charlemagne Prize which promotes European unification.

“Ukraine incarnates everything the European idea is living for: the courage of convictions, the fight for values and freedom, the commitment to peace and unity,” European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, told the ceremony.

“They are literally fighting for freedom, humanity and peace.

“They are bleeding and they are laying down their lives to safeguard the future of their children.

“And of ours. President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine know what they are fighting for. And they have understood what Europe and our Union is about.

“This is why I am convinced that Ukraine will prevail, it will win peace and make its European destiny come true.”

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