President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Germany as a “true friend and reliable ally” after Germany announced an additional €2.7 billion in military aid to Ukraine and the construction of an arms factory in the country.
Zelensky’s visit to Germany on Sunday marks a significant improvement in bilateral relations since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which Germany accused of reducing support for Ukraine at the start of the war.
Zelensky met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other officials a day after traveling to Rome to meet with Italian leaders and Pope Francis.
Zelenskyy then traveled to Paris on Sunday for a surprise meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, the Ukrainian leader’s second visit to France.
France has since said it is preparing new arms deliveries, including training several battalions of armored vehicles and strengthening air defenses in the coming weeks. A French official declined to say whether France would offer long-range missiles like the United Kingdom recently offered.
Zelenskyy said on Twitter after his arrival in the French capital: “With each visit, Ukraine’s defense and offensive capabilities are expanding. Relations with Europe are strengthening, and pressure on Russia is increasing.
Germany, which decided to send two of its Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine in January, announced on Saturday that it would supply Ukraine with additional weapons worth 2.7 billion euros. According to the German Ministry of Defense, Berlin has provided €4.2 billion in military aid since 2022.
German heavy weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall announced on Saturday that it is building a factory in Ukraine to repair and service tanks, in a joint venture with state-owned defense group Ukroboronprom.
The deliveries include 18 self-propelled howitzers, four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, 30 older Cheetah 1 MBTs and 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and artillery ammunition. In a post on Twitter, Zelensky called the deal “the largest military aid package since the start of a full-scale Russian invasion,” and said the German equipment “saves Ukrainian lives and brings us closer to victory.”
Reflecting improved ties, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Germany would help “as long as it takes” to end “Russia’s war against the Ukrainian people”. In April last year, Steinmeier avoided admitting that he would not welcome a visit to Ukraine, despite the German president meeting the Ukrainian president in Kyiv in October.
Armin Papperger, Rheinmetall’s chief executive, said on Saturday that the German arms manufacturer will “jointly manufacture selected Rheinmetall products in Ukraine” with Ukroboronprom.
On Sunday, Zelenskyy and Scholz traveled to the West German city of Aachen, where the Ukrainian president and his countrymen were presented with a prize honoring achievements in fostering European unity.
Zelensky’s overnight flight to Berlin came as Russian forces launched airstrikes on the western city of Ternopil, home to electronic music duo Tvorchy, who represented Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest final. This year’s Eurovision, which was won last year by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, was held in Liverpool, England, instead of Ukraine due to security concerns.
Fighting has intensified around the eastern city of Bagmut, which Russian forces have been trying to capture for more than nine months, with Moscow’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov saying on Sunday that one of its colonels had been killed in the city and another on a separate front. War.
Zelensky arrived in Berlin after a trip to Rome, where he met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who said Rome approved Kiev’s 10-point peace plan.
Italy, which signed a joint declaration with Zelenskyy supporting Ukraine’s bid to join the EU and NATO military alliance, has contributed around €1bn in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the start of the conflict, including Samp-T air defense systems.
Zelenskiy met with Pope Francis, who has been criticized by some Ukrainians for reluctance to openly condemn Russia for its full-scale invasion. Pope Francis surprised many when he told reporters in early May that he was on a secret “peace mission.”
He said he was grateful for the Pope’s interest in Zelenskyy’s plight More than 19,000 Ukrainian children Taken to Russia, he called on Pope Francis to count on Russia to support a 10-point peace plan for Ukraine. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, citing the forced deportation of Ukrainian children.
“There can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor,” the Ukrainian president said. “I have spoken of our peace formula as the only effective means of a just peace. I proposed to implement it.
Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome