Prime Minister of Ukraine visited Berlin in search of new weapons

Hui Ming NEO

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Sunday expressed hope that Germany would become a leading player in helping Kyiv bolster its air defense system as he pressed Berlin for heavier weapons for Kyiv.

Shmygal became the first high-ranking Ukrainian official to visit Germany in recent months, a sign of easing tensions between Kyiv and Berlin after a rocky period.

Germany’s initial stuttering response to its military support for Kyiv following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused consternation.

But Shmygal acknowledged during his visit that Germany has since significantly increased its military aid, and heavy weapons such as the 2000 tank howitzer or MARS rocket launchers “work well on the battlefield.”

The delivery of the Iris-T air defense system is expected in the fall, he said, adding that Ukraine “hopes that Germany will become one of the leaders in the development of Ukrainian air defense.”

In a speech on his vision for Europe on Monday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he believed Germany was taking on a “special responsibility” for helping Ukraine build its artillery and anti-aircraft systems.

– “Solidarity” –

Allied defense ministers are expected to arrive in Germany on Thursday for a US-led meeting to coordinate Ukraine’s military needs.

Before the talks, Scholz stressed Germany’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, but added that this would be done in coordination with “our friends and allies.”

The Ukrainian prime minister made the first stop on his visit to Berlin for a meeting with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, where Shmyhal said he “discussed the military situation, the strengthening of sanctions and the need to provide weapons to Ukraine.”

Shmyhal also thanked Germany “for solidarity with Ukrainians and support.”

Germany “will continue to stand firmly on the side of Ukraine,” Shmygal Steinmeier assured, the press secretary of the German President said.

The heartfelt accounts of their talks showed a change in tone from previous months, when a row erupted in April over Steinmeier’s proposal to visit Ukraine was rejected.

Steinmeier, a former foreign minister from Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, was shunned for his years of détente against Moscow – which he admitted was a mistake after the war broke out.

– “Hybrid war” –

The German SPD has historically championed close ties with Russia, born out of the “Ostpolitik” policy of rapprochement and dialogue with the then Soviet Union, developed by former SPD chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s.

This tradition contributed to Germany initially refusing any arms shipments to Kyiv, and the previous decision to send only 5,000 helmets caused anger and ridicule.

But Scholz’s coalition, which also includes the Greens and the liberal FDP, has since reversed dramatically.

Among the weapons that have arrived in Kyiv are howitzers, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles.

Heavier weapons such as IRIS-T anti-aircraft systems, pickup truck-mounted missile launchers and anti-drone equipment are to be included in an additional military aid package worth more than 500 million euros.

Currently, Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in Germany in handling Leopard anti-aircraft tanks.

On Sunday, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Germany of waging a “hybrid war” against Russia, justifying the halting of Nord Stream 1 gas supplies to Europe.

“Firstly, Germany is an unfriendly country. Secondly, she has imposed sanctions on the entire Russian economy… and is supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine,” Medvedev said in support of his statement in a message published on Telegram.

The EU should “completely abandon” Russian energy, Shmyhal said in a Telegram post after meeting with Scholz, adding that Moscow “unleashed an energy war against Europe.”

“There is already a decision on an embargo on Russian coal and oil, but an embargo on gas is also needed,” he said a day before his visit to Brussels, where he will join EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell at an EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting.

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