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Zelensky pushes Germany to replace US as Ukraine’s first arms provider

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky at Bellevue palace in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has met with German leaders in Berlin and pressed them for faster deliveries of advanced weapons and fighter jets, in a visit that aims to nudge Germany towards potentially replacing the United States as Kiev’s most prominent supplier of arms.

Zelensky, who was escorted to Berlin by German fighter jets for his first trip, noted that Germany was now Ukraine’s second-largest backer after the United States. “We are working to bring Germany to first place on that,” he said at a news conference on Sunday. 

“In the most challenging time in the modern history of Ukraine, Germany proved to be our true friend and reliable ally, which stands decisively side-by-side with the Ukrainian people in the struggle to defend freedom and democratic values,” he wrote in the guestbook at the German president’s official residence.

“Together we will win and bring peace back to Europe,” he added in the entry, before heading into talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Zelensky “discussed the current situation and the intensive cooperation between Germany and Ukraine” with Steinmeier.

Earlier, Zelensky was greeted by Chancellor Olaf Scholz with military honors before heading into talks behind closed doors. 

Speaking to journalists at the German chancellery, Zelensky and Scholz sought to highlight an improving relationship with exchanges of gratitude and praise.

Germany has become a major contributor of tanks, rockets and anti-missile systems to Ukraine. 

Zelensky’s trip to Germany comes as Kiev is preparing a counter-offensive against Russian forces. Ukrainian forces have been training troops and stockpiling Western-supplied munitions and hardware.

It also comes amid concerns among European and Ukrainian officials that American support for Ukraine could wane after the presidential elections in the United States next year.

On Sunday, Berlin unveiled its biggest armaments package for Ukraine yet, including tanks, missile defense systems and combat vehicles worth 2.7 billion euros.

High-tech German-made Leopard 2A6 tanks sought by Kiev have already been put to use at the frontlines, and the medium-range Iris-T missile defense system from Germany is also helping to bolster Ukraine against Russian forces. 

Western allies have delivered increasingly powerful weapons to Ukraine.

Zelensky’s trip to Germany aimed at shoring up support among Western allies and pushing for faster deliveries of weapons.

Britain this week announced it was sending Storm Shadow missiles, becoming the first country to send longer-range arms to Kiev. 

Russia described it as “an extremely hostile step” and on Saturday accused Kiev of using the British missiles to target civilian sites in eastern Ukraine, wounding six children. 

Russia accused Ukraine of repeatedly hitting targets inside Russia, including a reported attack on Moscow's Kremlin earlier this month.

Senior officials in Moscow have repeatedly accused the West of becoming directly involved in the Ukraine war by supplying the country with weapons and training its soldiers.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in February warned that further involvement by NATO member states in the Ukraine war would lead to "unpredictable escalation."

Russia says the operation in Ukraine was launched to defend the pro-Russia population in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk against alleged persecution by Kiev.

Over the past year, the US and its NATO allies have supplied a large cache of advanced military equipment to Ukraine, despite Moscow's repeated warnings.

Ever since the war began, Kiev's allies, led by the United States and Britain, have been supplying Ukraine with weapons, a step that Russia says would prolong the conflict.


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