Germany pledges almost $3bn in new military aid to Ukraine

Germany will provide Ukraine with additional military aid worth nearly $3 billion, including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and munitions, the government announced ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s arrival in Berlin.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Saturday that Berlin’s latest 2.7 billion euro ($2.95 billion) military aid package was intended to “show that Germany is serious about supporting Ukraine”.

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

While Germany was initially slow to provide military aid to Kiev, it has since become one of Ukraine’s largest arms suppliers. advanced anti-aircraft systems needed to repel 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.

Germany’s backing comes as Ukrainian military commanders say their forces have recaptured significant territory from Russian forces near the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, which has become the symbolic epicenter of the battle between Kiev and Moscow, where their forces have fought for months in bloody urban warfare.

Zelenskyy confirmed his arrival in Germany early Sunday – his first visit since Russia launched its invasion last year – in a tweet.

“Already in Berlin,” Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet. “Weapons. Powerful package. Antiaircraft. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security.”

Zelenskyy traveled to Berlin after meeting with several Italian leaders and Pope Francis on Saturday in Italy. A German Luftwaffe jet flew Zelenskyy from Rome to the German capital.

The Ukrainian leader spent 40 minutes with the 86-year-old pope at the Vatican after an earlier meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“I am very grateful to him for his personal attention to the tragedy of millions of Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram after his audience with the pope. He said they had also discussed the fate of “tens of thousands of children” who Kiev says have been deported to Russia, as well as his plans for peace.

The Vatican, without citing Russia, said the pair discussed “the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine as a result of the ongoing war” and the need for “human gestures towards the most vulnerable”.

Francis has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine and tried to play a mediating role, although his efforts have yet to bear fruit and he has faced criticism for not blaming Russia for the war.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Vatican on May 13, 2023 [Vatican Media via Reuters]

Zelenskyy had a 70-minute face-to-face conversation with Meloni, who has pledged Italy’s full support for Kiev despite a history of close ties with Moscow in her country – and with her coalition partners. At a joint press conference, Zelenskyy thanked Meloni “for helping save lives,” detailing what he called new aggression from Russia.

“I have not come to complain, I have come to talk about our cooperation and to thank you again for your help, for the sake of our country, because we want peace,” he said.

Italy has sent arms and aid to Kiev, though it has never revealed exactly what it delivered. Meloni, who visited Kiev in February, said on Saturday: “I am convinced that Ukraine will win and become stronger, prouder and more prosperous than before.”

The Ukrainian leader is expected to receive the prestigious Charlemagne Prize at a ceremony on Sunday afternoon in the West German city of Aachen, Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency reported.

After meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other senior officials at the Chancellery, Zelenskyy and Scholz are expected to fly to Aachen.

The International Charlemagne Prize was awarded to both Zelensky and the Ukrainian people in December and will now be presented personally to the president.

The Charlemagne Prize, a non-monetary and largely symbolic award, was established in 1950 to celebrate efforts towards European unification.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her two colleagues received the award last year.