June 3, 2023

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 munitions, the government said on Saturday.

The announcement came as preparations were made in Berlin for a possible first visit to Germany by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since Russia invaded his country last year.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin’s latest weapons package was intended to show “that Germany is serious about its support” for Ukraine.

“Germany will provide all the help it can as long as it is needed,” he said.

While Zelenskyy’s visit on Sunday has yet to be officially confirmed, it would be a sign that relations between Ukraine and Germany have improved significantly after a rocky period.

Kiev has long been suspicious of Germany’s reliance on Russian energy and support for the Nord Stream gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine, championed by then Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Her successor, Olaf Scholz, agreed to phase out Russian energy imports after the invasion, but was initially hesitant to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, fearing that Germany would be drawn into the conflict.

With Washington, Warsaw and London more openly supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself, Berlin got Kiev’s cold diplomatic shoulder.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was not invited to Ukraine last year, sparking chagrin in Germany, which pointed out that it has provided significant financial support to Kiev and taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees. Scholz finally visited Kiev with French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders in June.

Although Germany has been slow to provide military aid, it has since become one of the largest arms suppliers to Ukraine. of drone and missile attacks.

The new military aid package, first reported by the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, includes 30 Leopard 1 A5 tanks, 20 Marder armored cars, more than 100 combat vehicles, 18 self-propelled howitzers, 200 reconnaissance drones, four IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft systems and other air defense equipment.

The Ukrainian president was due to arrive from Rome, where he will meet Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Berlin police confirmed last week that they are preparing for a possible visit from Zelenskyy and cordoned off much of the capital’s government district on Sunday.

After meeting with Scholz and other high-ranking officials at the chancery, the two leaders are expected to fly to the western city of Aachen, where Zelenskyy will receive the International Charlemagne Prize awarded to him and the people of Ukraine. The organizers say the prize recognizes that their resistance to the Russian invasion is a defense “not only of their country’s sovereignty and the lives 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.